Whatsapp Privacy Debacle 

 Representational Photo

APROPOS the news item titled “India Asks Whatsapp To Withdraw Changes to Privacy Policy” published in this newspaper on 20 January 2020; it is a much-needed step by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India. Earlier hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) against the new privacy policy of Whatsapp, Delhi High Court's Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva had on Monday told the plaintiffs that "WhatsApp is a private app, if you think it compromises your privacy, then don’t join it." While it is true that Whatsapp is a private app and can choose its own privacy policy for the users but it cannot be allowed to violate the rights of its users even if it asks for consent. If going by the logic of Delhi High Court, joining Whatsapp and accepting its privacy policy is voluntary, it is like allowing some scam to run throughout the country and letting people get duped because they joined it voluntarily. Just like it is the duty of the government to protect its citizens from getting duped in scams, it is the duty of the government to protect the citizens against infringement of their private data.

Earlier when China-based apps like TikTok were banned, it was alleged that the apps pose a threat to the national security because they infringe data rights of Indian citizens, similar action should follow against Whatsapp and all other apps that do not respect the privacy of their users. Since Whatsapp has the largest subscriber base in India that runs into millions it should be monitored strictly by the government. If a private app is accumulating private information of its users, it is highly likely to misuse it. Since Whatsapp belongs to Facebook, it should not be forgotten how the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal influenced and changed the results of many elections around the world. Therefore, the government in stark contrast with the statement of Delhi High Court has taken the right step in asking Whatsapp to withdraw the new privacy policy.

Najmu Saqib

[email protected] 

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