India asks court to block WhatsApp’s policy update, says new change violates laws

As WhatsApp spends months to address users’ concerns and confusion about its planned policy update, there is evidently one entity it hasn’t had much luck making inroads with: The Government of India.

The Indian government alleged on Friday that WhatsApp’s planned privacy update, which goes into effect in two months, violates local laws on several counts.

In a filing to the Delhi High Court, the federal government also asked the court to prevent Facebook-owned messaging app from rolling out the update in India, WhatsApp’s biggest market by users.

“Social media in recent years has been used by billions of people around the world and millions of Indians today are dependent on WhatsApp. Therefore, information that is generally personal is shared at an enormous level. This information is susceptible to being misused if the social media giant decides to either sell or exploit the information, sensitive to the users, to any third party,” the government wrote in the filing.

The filing suggests that WhatsApp hasn’t been able to assuage concerns of New Delhi, which first raised issue about the planned policy update in January.

Earlier this year, India’s IT ministry had written to Will Cathcart, the head of WhatsApp, to express its “grave concerns” about the update and its implications and had “called upon to withdraw the proposed changes.”

A WhatsApp spokesperson declined to comment.

The Indian government’s unchanging stand — and ongoing legal case — on WhatsApp’s forthcoming terms and conditions change is the latest headache for the popular instant messaging firm, which is also grappling with a forthcoming guideline from New Delhi that could require WhatsApp to compromise end-to-end encryption it offers on its service.

Used by over 2 billion users, WhatsApp has been sharing some information with parent firm Facebook since 2016. The company, which hasn’t substantially updated its terms of service since, said last year that it will be making some changes to share a set of personal data about users such as their phone number and location with Facebook.

Through an in-app alert earlier this year, WhatsApp asked users to share their consent for the new terms in January, which prompted an immediate backlash from some users. Following the backlash — which saw tens of millions of users explore competing services such as Signal and Telegram — WhatsApp said it will give users three additional months to review its new policy. (On a side note, Signal mobile apps had crossed 100 million monthly active users in February, according to a popular mobile insight firm.)

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