Podcast | CCI orders probe into WhatsApp's updated privacy policy

| Updated on March 25, 2021

On March 24, The Competition Commission of India directed its investigation arm to conduct a probe into WhatsApp’s updated privacy policy and terms of service .This came on prima facie finding that the firm has contravened competition law provisions through its “exploitative and exclusionary conduct” in the garb of the policy update.

CCI has said a thorough and detailed investigation was required to ascertain the full extent, scope and impact of data sharing through involuntary consent of users.The order against WhatsApp LLC and parent Facebook Inc came after the Commission took suo moto cognisance of the matter on considering media reports and the potential impact of the policy and terms for WhatsApp users and the market.

The Commission said that users, as owners of their personalised data, are entitled to be informed about the extent, scope and precise purpose of sharing of such information by WhatsApp with other Facebook companies.Besides, CCI said it is also not clear from the policy whether the historical data of users would also be shared with Facebook companies and whether data would be shared in respect of those WhatsApp users who are not present on other apps of Facebook.

It observed that the users have not been provided with appropriate granular choice, neither upfront nor in the fine print, to object to or opt-out of specific data sharing terms, which prima facie appear to be unfair and unreasonable for WhatsApp users.

WhatsApp said that it would engage with the Competition Commission of India (CCI) in the probe on its updated privacy policy and terms of service.

In February Whatsapp had said that it would display a banner in WhatsApp allowing users to read, review and accept the policy “at their own pace” before the May 15 deadline.It noted that users will have to mandatorily accept the new terms and policy in their entirety, including the terms with respect to sharing of their data across all the information categories with other Facebook companies.

As per WhatsApp’s submissions, the 2021 update does not expand its ability to share data with Facebook and the update intends to provide users with further transparency about how WhatsApp collects, uses and shares data.

So, what happens after May 15? Here's whats likely to happen

Users who do not accept the update will lose certain functionalities within the app, followed by the implementation of WhatsApp’s inactive accounts policy.

Users can still accept the updates after May 15, but WhatsApp’s policy related to inactive users will apply. As per the policy, WhatsApp accounts are “generally deleted” after 120 days of inactivity.

Users can export their chat history on Android or iPhone, and download a report of their account before May 15.

Published on March 25, 2021

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