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WhatsApp scraps 15 May deadline for accepting privacy policy terms

By Priyanka Verma 
Updated Date

Facebook-owned WhatsApp’s new privacy policy was responsible for many events in the last few months. From the rise of alternative instant messaging apps such as Signal and Telegram to citizens, in general, becoming more aware of how data privacy works.

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Now, WhatsApp has scrapped its 15 May deadline for users to accept its controversial privacy policy update and said not accepting the terms will not lead to deletion of accounts, according to a news agency report.

WhatsApp had faced severe backlash over user concerns that data was being shared with parent company Facebook.

A WhatsApp spokesperson told news agency that no accounts will be deleted on 15 May for not accepting the policy update.

“No accounts will be deleted on May 15 because of this update and no one in India will lose functionality of WhatsApp either. We will follow up with reminders to people over the next several weeks,” the spokesperson said in an emailed response to a query on Friday.

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The spokesperson added that while a “majority of users who have received the new terms of service have accepted them”, some people have not had the chance to do so yet.

However, the company did not clarify the reason behind the decision and did not divulge the number of users who have accepted the terms so far.

WhatsApp’s privacy policy controversy

In January this year, WhatsApp started pushing out an update on its app, asking users to accept the new privacy policy. Initially the company gave a deadline of February 8, 2021, but later it revised the deadline to May 15. WhatsApp’s privacy policy focused on addressing data sharing with its parent company Facebook, especially where business accounts were concerned.

WhatsApp made it clear that it was not making any changes to its end-to-end encryption, which is present on all private chats. Nor did it plan to share any metadata or call logs or user messages with Facebook, but there was a lot of confusion around the policy. A lot of misinformation was also spread about WhatsApp, ironically a lot of this was shared on the platform itself.

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WhatsApp was forced to issue a detailed FAQ clarifying that user privacy was not impacted in anyway. However, it had explained that when users interact with businesses on the platform, that information could be used for marketing purposes, including possible “advertising on Facebook.”

The relevant portion of the policy read as, “Businesses you interact with using our Services may provide us with information about their interactions with you. We require each of these businesses to act in accordance with applicable law when providing any information to us.”

It also noted, “In addition, some businesses might be working with third-party service providers (which may include Facebook) to help manage their communications with their customers.”

Still WhatsApp’s clarifications did nothing to stem the outrage against the privacy policy. The result was a spike of users moving to Telegram and Signal in India as both of the apps gained a lot of popularity during the period.

Further, a case was filed in the Delhi High Court by the Central Government in India as well. In a recent hearing, the government also said that the new privacy policy announced by WhatsApp in January violates the 2011 IT Rules on five counts, and urged it to restrain the messaging app from implementing this policy.

Now, it looks like WhatsApp has abandoned all plans of implementing this policy altogether. Given the backlash it has faced over the update, this looks like a wise move.

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