India’s concerns are quite genuine considering the fact that the country has the largest user base in terms of WhatsApp users. The new update announced by the Facebook-owned chat app early in the year has generated a lot of backlash.
“Social media in recent years has been used by billions of people around the world and millions of Indians today are dependent on WhatsApp. Therefore, information that is generally personal is shared at an enormous level. This information is susceptible to being misused if the social media giant decides to either sell or exploit the information, sensitive to the users, to any third party,” the government wrote in the filing per TechCrunch.
Despite assurances from WhatsApp that it has no plans to share users’ personal data with Facebook, the government from what we have gathered so far does not share similar sentiment.
In a statement made available per TechCrunch, a WhatsApp spokesperson said:
“As we said in January when this matter was first raised: we wish to reinforce that this update does not expand our ability to share data with Facebook. Our aim is to provide transparency and new options available to engage with businesses so they can serve their customers and grow. WhatsApp will always protect personal messages with end-to-end encryption so that neither WhatsApp nor Facebook can see them. We are working to address misinformation and remain available to answer any questions.”
Millions of users switching to rival chat apps like Telegram and Signal. Telegram for example, recorded 25 million new users in 72 hours. Seeing that it was beginning to lose more of its users to Telegram and Signal, the Facebook-owned app put up several newspaper ads in India to assure users that its intentions were completely misunderstood.
In another of the newspaper ads, Facebook said: “Respect for your privacy is coded into our DNA.” This sounds like a desperate attempt at salvaging a bad situation as a result of the backlash.