India’s ministry of electronics and information technology (MeitY), in an affidavit to the Delhi High Court, said that collecting the sensitive personal information of users and sharing data with Facebook and other third parties violate India’s Information Technology Rules, 2011.
“WhatsApp fails to specify types of personal data being collected, fails to notify user details of the collection of sensitive personal information; provide an option to review or amend information; provide an option to withdraw consent retrospectively and guarantee further non-disclosure by third parties,” it added.
“Crucially, there is no distinction between personal data or sensitive personal data which is being collected,” it further added.
WhatsApp has more than 400 million users in India, which is the app’s biggest market globally. In January, the app had brought out a privacy update that would allow it to share commercial user data with parent Facebook and group companies.
WhatsApp, however, clarified that the policy update doesn’t change its data-sharing practices with Facebook and won’t impact how people communicate privately with friends and family wherever they are in the world. It deferred implementation from February to May after users began shifting to rival messaging apps.
“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. WhatsApp will always protect personal messages with end-to-end encryption so neither WhatsApp nor Facebook can see them. We are working to address misinformation and remain available to answer any questions,” WhatsApp said in a media statement after MeitY submitted its affidavit.
WhatsApp will display a banner in the app, providing more information that people can read at their own pace. The banner will include more information to try and address concerns that users have been raising.
Various Indian companies have reportedly issued advisories to employees asking them to avoid sharing sensitive information on WhatsApp. They have also asked employees to stop using the messaging platform for critical business calls.