Probe ordered into WhatsApp’s privacy policy in India for breach of antitrust laws

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has ordered a probe into WhatsApp’s privacy policy update that was rolled out by the messaging app in January. According to a Reuters report, the CCI said in an order that WhatsApp breached antitrust laws in the guise of its policy update.

“The 21-page order also asked its investigation unit to conduct the probe and submit a report within 60 days. Such probes typically take several months,” as per the Reuters report.

Further, CCI said that WhatsApp’s conduct in sharing users’ data with other Facebook firms appears unfair to users given the data is being shared in a way that is “neither fully transparent nor based on voluntary and specific user consent”

“The Competition Commission of India (CCI) said WhatsApp had violated competition laws “through its exploitative and exclusionary conduct … in the garb of policy update,” as per the news agency.

To recall, WhatsApp announced its privacy policy earlier this year and forced users to accept it by February 8, 2021. However, the deadline was pushed to May 15, 2021, due to backlash over the policy amid privacy concerns that it shares private messages with parent company Facebook.

WhatsApp has been trying to clear the air to provide more information on its privacy policy. The messaging platform recently put out a blog post explaining that personal messages will always be end-to-end encrypted. However, parts of data of those interacting with businesses on WhatsApp can be stored on Facebook’s servers, which will mainly be used for targeting ads on Facebook.

WhatsApp also rolled out a new banner feature, which will essentially invite users to check out the platform’s privacy policies again. WhatsApp has clarified that the personal messages of users will remain private, though interactions with businesses might not have the same protections. Of course, chatting with a business account is optional.

Do note that if users do not accept WhatsApp’s updated privacy policy by May 15, their accounts will not be deleted after this date, though the functionalities will be limited. “To give you enough time to review changes at your own pace and convenience, we’ve extended the effective date to May 15th. If you haven’t accepted by then, WhatsApp will not delete your account,” WhatsApp said in the FAQ.

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