The government has sent a questionnaire to WhatsApp seeking more details about its data-sharing protocols and business practices. It has sought the exact categories of data that the application collects from Indian users, details of the permissions and user consent sought by and utility of each of these with respect to the functioning and specific service provided. The service has been asked whether it profiles users based on their use of the application.
The government has also sought details of the difference between WhatsApp’s privacy policies in India and other countries along with details of its data security, information security, cyber-security, privacy, and encryption policies.
The government has highlighted the latest policy will lead to the collection of “a vast amount of highly invasive and granular metadata.”
“With this, any meaningful distinction between WhatsApp and Facebook companies will cease to exist. Given the huge user base of WhatsApp and Facebook in India, the consolidation of this sensitive information also exposes a very large segment of Indian citizens to greater security risks and vulnerabilities creating a honeypot of information,” a person familiar with the matter said, citing the contents of the letter to the WhatsApp chief.
India’s Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology has summoned Facebook officials on January 21 amid privacy concerns about WhatsApp.