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CCI orders probe into Whatsapp’s privacy policy, terms it as exclusionary, exploitative 

A thorough and detailed investigation is required to ascertain the full extent, scope and impact of data sharing through involuntary consent of users, the CCI said in an order issued on Wednesday.

Published: 24th March 2021 09:46 PM  |   Last Updated: 24th March 2021 09:46 PM   |  A+A-

Whatsapp

WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram services face global outage. (File photo)

Express News Service

BENGALURU: India’s competition watchdog, CCI has ordered a probe into Whatsapp’s updated privacy policy, saying that the messaging service firm contravened various provisions of Section 4 of the Competition Act, through its exploitative and exclusionary conduction under the garb of a policy update. 

A thorough and detailed investigation is required to ascertain the full extent, scope and impact of data sharing through involuntary consent of users, the CCI said in an order issued on Wednesday.

The competition watchdog has directed its Director-General to complete the investigation within 60 days. The CCI said that both Whatsapp and its parent firm, Facebook have not made elaborate disclosures of the new privacy policy to the users, who are entitled to be informed about the extent, scope and precise purpose of sharing of such data by WhatsApp with other Facebook Companies.

Being in a dominant position in the Over-the-top (OTT) messaging market, CCI observed that the firm will potentially abuse its market leadership with the updated policy. It added that despite the surge in downloads of rival messaging apps like Signal, Telegram, there was no significant loss of users to Whatsapp.

The US firm has now deferred the implementation of the updated privacy policy in India till May 2021.

The facebook-owned messaging service firm has already come under the scanner of the country’s electronics and information technology ministry for its” differential treatment” and sought withdrawal of the proposed measures.

Meity has also filed a counter-affidavit in the Delhi High Court seeking to stop Whatsapp from the implementation of its updated privacy policy.

The CCI noted that in comparison to its earlier policy updates, where users were granted an opt-in/ opt-out choice, the user consent has not been included in the 2021 policy update which may lead to sharing of data including transactions and payments data; data related to battery level, signal strength, app version, mobile operator, ISP, language and time zone, device operation information, service-related information and identifiers etc.; location information of the user even if the user does not use location-related features with Facebook and its other entities.

Whatsapp has maintained that the primary purpose of the 2021 policy update is to provide users with further transparency about how the company collects, uses and shares data; and to inform users about how optional business messaging features work when certain business messaging features become available to them.



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