“The government has asked to shut down the policy. We have said we will not enforce it till the Data Protection Bill is passed. That is open-ended because we don’t know when the Bill is going to come out,” Harish Salve said during the hearing at the Delhi High Court.
Harish Salve further told the Delhi High Court, “We have said we will not do this [enforce policy] for a while. Suppose the Bill allows me to do it, we will have completely different ramifications.”
“We replied to MeiTy’s notice seeking a response, saying that WhatsApp will not limit functionality for some time and continue to show users the updated version of its app,” Harish Salve said.
“We will maintain this approach until the Data Protection Bill comes into force. We have voluntarily agreed to put the update on hold till then,” Salve said.
Later, WhatsApp announced that it would not delete the accounts of users but would limit the functionality of the app for them. This meant that while users would continue to receive messages or calls, they would not be able to reply to them. This confused users about the way the app would work after the restrictions came in.
It was necessary for the app to make the business accounts function better.
However, most users were not convinced. They saw that WhatsApp was going to share more data with Facebook and that spooked them. They did not like the fact that WhatsApp was telling them to accept the policy or else lose access to the app.
Responding to this, a WhatsApp spokesperson said, “We reiterate that we have already responded to the Government of India and assured them that the privacy of users remains our highest priority. As a reminder, the recent update does not change the privacy of people’s personal messages. Its purpose is to provide additional information about how people can interact with businesses if they choose to do so.”
“We will not limit the functionality of how WhatsApp works in the coming weeks. Instead, we will continue to remind users from time to time about the update as well as when people choose to use relevant optional features, like communicating with a business that is receiving support from Facebook. We hope this approach reinforces the choice that all users have whether or not they want to interact with a business. We will maintain this approach until at least the forthcoming PDP law comes into effect,” the spokesperson had said.
WhatsApp might have decided not to implement restrictions for now, but the platform has left a window open for future action by stating that its current stance would last only until the Indian government came up with a Personal Data Protection (PDP) law.
The PDP bill will restrict apps and platforms from collecting, processing and sharing personal and sensitive data of the users. But, the law is not coming into effect anytime soon. The union government needs to ensure that there are strict guidelines when it does.