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Competition Commission of India orders probe into WhatsApp’s new privacy policy

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has ordered an investigation to ascertain the "full extent, scope, and impact" of data sharing under WhatsApp's new privacy policy and terms of use that is being implemented with "involuntary consent of users". WhatsApp has prima facie violated provisions under the Competition Act through its “exploitative and exclusionary conduct” under the garb of a policy update, the Commission said. WhatsApp's updates to its privacy policy earlier this year caused uproar, with privacy advocates calling the move out and downloads of privacy-preserving apps such as Signal and Telegram temporarily surging. WhatsApp eventually postponed implementation from January 15 to May 15, 2021. In its order on Wednesday, the CCI said that that the investigation report be submitted within two months. Nothing in the order tantamounts to a final opinion, it added. According to the CCI, the purpose of data sharing "seems to be beyond users’ reasonable and legitimate expectations regarding quality, security and other relevant aspects" for which users come on WhatsApp. One of the stated purposes of data sharing, to offer targeted ads on Facebook, indicates intentions to build user profiles through cross-linking data collected across services. This can be considered a competitive advantage and raise concerns, the CCI noted. The competition regulator had taken suo motu cognizance of WhatsApp's privacy policy updates in January, and had sought responses from both WhatsApp and its parent company Facebook India. Facebook had said it should not even be a party to the proceedings since WhatsApp and Facebook are…

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