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WhatsApp cites encryption as it opposes plea for privacy violation



WhatsApp has opposed a plea in the Delhi High Court which alleges that the company was threatening the privacy of its users. The messaging company countered that all user data was encrypted, and that it did not have access to any of it, reports the Economic Times.

WhatsApp had earlier come under fire after updating its policy to collect user data including phone numbers, usage patterns, status and login information to perform analytics and for “people (users) to communicate with businesses”. Further such information would also be shared with Facebook and Facebook’s family of apps so that it can track basic metrics like how often users utilize services.

Subsequently, a PIL was filed against the messaging app stating that the “drastic changes” in WhatsApp’s privacy policy is a U-turn from the earlier privacy policy that existed since 7th July 2012. The newly introduced changes “severely compromises the rights of its users and makes Privacy rights of users complete vulnerable,” the petition said. The court had asked WhatsApp to file a short affidavit before the 20th September explaining its position with regards to the concerns raised in the petition.

Note that WhatsApp provides an option to opt-out from data collection; however a user’s phone number will still be shared with Facebook. Users can only opt-out of targeted advertising on Facebook via analytics performed on a user’s usage patterns. This according to the petition is an illusion or “façade” being created by Facebook, since its asking for user consent before altering what WhatsApp stood by since its inception–protection of a user’s private information.

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Interestingly, WhatsApp once contended that it shall not collect or store any kind of user data and that it has no plans to do so. The company issued these statements after many critics and users raised concerns about their privacy when Facebook acquired WhatsApp in 2014. However, after more than a year of the acquisition, the recent changes threaten to take away protection of privacy and data of users, added the petition.

Complaint in the US: WhatsApp faces a similar case in the US where the Electronic Privacy Information Center has filed a complaint before the Federal Trade Commission against WhatsApp and Facebook. The Data Protection Authority in the UK, the Information Commissioner’s Office, has also stated that it would be investigating these changes. The company has also come under scrutiny in the rest of the EU.

Also read: WhatsApp Backtracks on Privacy: Faces Legal Hurdles

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