Amid Backlash, WhatsApp Tweaks Privacy Policy Language Again


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The WhatsApp India Payments Privacy Policy will supersede the messaging giant’s new privacy policy in any case of conflict between the two with regards to UPI payments

The blog post dated January 28 comes a day after Inc42 sent detailed questionnaires to RBI and NPCI regarding their stand and responsibilities on the privacy of transactions on WhatsApp Pay

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court today adjourned a hearing in a petition that raised questions on the NPCI and RBI’s handling of data localisation by payments services of big tech companies such as WhatsApp owner Facebook, Amazon and Google

WhatsApp on Thursday (January 28) issued a clarification saying that WhatsApp’s UPI-based payments service is subject to a separate WhatsApp India Payments Privacy Policy, which is not impacted by the terms of service for the messaging app. 

“If there is any conflict between the WhatsApp India Payments Privacy Policy and the WhatsApp Privacy Policy, the WhatsApp India Payments Privacy Policy will control solely with respect to your use of UPI Payments… The UPI transaction data is encrypted, and Facebook doesn’t have access to this data in clear format,” it added.

This comes a day after Inc42 sent detailed questionnaires to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) regarding their stand and regulatory responsibilities with respect to WhatsApp Payments (WhatsApp Pay) in light of the controversial new privacy policy floated by the messaging app. Queries to the organisations went unanswered, as both remain conspicuously stayed mum on how WhatsApp’s new privacy policy will impact payments data, despite outrage from all corners. 

The blog post on the messaging company’s website also claims that payments transaction data on its UPI service is encrypted and resides only in India, as per RBI guidelines.

In perhaps the biggest change in WhatsApp’s privacy policy in years, in January, the company had stated that it will share more user data with parent company Facebook from individual to business chats on WhatsApp, and other activity as well as device-level information with its network of companies and partners. 

Under the new terms and conditions, WhatsApp would share transaction data, mobile device information, IP addresses, and other data on how users interacted with businesses with Facebook group companies, including Instagram.

The company already collects device, connection, and location information automatically. Moreover, WhatsApp will collect location info, even when location settings have been turned off, using multiple indicators. Besides this, it will automatically collect device and usage log, which indicates WhatsApp status, chat groups and profile photo.

Interestingly, a look at today’s blog post, the November 21, 2020 version of the privacy policy and December 28, 2020 version throw up a significant difference on how WhatsApp and Facebook will store and share data with authorities and regulators for compliance issues. Inc42 has sought a detailed response from WhatsApp India for this and we will update the copy as and when the company replies.

Legal Hurdles Persist For WhatsApp Pay

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court today adjourned a hearing in a petition that raised questions on the NPCI and RBI’s handling of data localisation by payments services of big tech companies such as WhatsApp owner Facebook, Amazon and Google. 

Binoy Viswom, a Rajya Sabha member of parliament, has petitioned the apex court to direct the central bank to frame necessary regulations in an order to ensure that the data collected by UPI platforms of Amazon Pay, Google Pay and Facebook-owned WhatsApp (still in a beta phase) is not used for any purpose barring the processing of payments.

The Communist Party of India (CPI) leader also sought SC’s intervention so that the right to privacy of Indian citizens is protected from misuse by the “giant corporations for (their) financial ends”.

WhatsApp has been embroiled in a slew of lawsuits and regulatory bottlenecks in the country over the past two years due to which it hadn’t been able to launch its payments feature beyond the beta mode until November last year when the NPCI gave it a go-ahead. However, the payments authority’s nod came with a rider that the Facebook-owned messaging app can expand its UPI user base in a graded manner starting with a maximum registered user base of 20 Mn in UPI.

Despite launching in November 2020, WhatsApp Pay has managed to double its UPI transactions volume in December 2020, even as PhonePe and Google Pay maintained a commanding lead in the market. With a total of 2.2 Bn transactions worth INR 4.16 Lakh Cr processed in December, the UPI tally matched the November 2020 numbers.

WhatsApp Pay processed 0.81 Mn UPI transactions worth INR 29.72 Cr, which is double in terms of both volume and value compared to November, while PhonePe processed 902.03 Mn transactions and Google Pay was second with 854.49 Mn transactions, according to the latest data released by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI).





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