WhatsApp privacy policy challenged in Delhi High Court: 5 things to know

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A public interest litigation in the Delhi High Court (HC) challenges the change in WhatsApp’s privacy policy.

As a part of a crucial update to the messaging app’s policy, it will now share user data with its parent company, social networking giant Facebook. The litigants have argued that WhatsApp’s terms of service are “deceptive” and difficult to comprehend for a layperson.

Earlier this month, the Delhi HC had sought responses from government agencies, DoT and Trai on the same. Now, the Chief Justice-led bench in the High Court has asked WhatsApp and Facebook to file their responses by September 20 (the next hearing has been set for September 21).

Here is all you need to know about the controversy:
1. What is a privacy policy?
A privacy policy for a technology company such as WhatsApp or Facebook tells you how and where they will use your information — your phone number, your contacts, your pictures, etc. A policy sets down whether and how these will be used to serve you ads, or to give you software updates.

2. What does WhatsApp privacy policy say now?
WhatsApp had started out with an emphatic focus on never having any ads ever on its app. But after Facebook bought it in February 2014, change appeared to be inevitable. This August, they announced updates to their privacy policy

3. So Facebook gets to know my phone number and people I frequently text too?
Yes. That is one of the key changes in the policy. WhatsApp has expressly said that Facebook can use your WhatsApp data to make better product suggestions.

4. How those Facebook ads work?
Imagine being fed with more information in what you may or may not be interested in buying. Some Facebook users already have linked their phone number with the social networking giant.

So, building a wider user profile with additional information is now possible. There is an option for opting out of the information sharing, but it is conditional. Under that condition, Facebook will have your information anyway, but can only use it in a limited manner.

5. Wait. So Facebook is now going to read my Whatsapp messages too?
That is tricky. WhatsApp says it doesn’t store messages after they are delivered. At all. However, the policy does suggest that Facebook can use your messages.

The way Whatsapp says it is a bit convoluted. It says: “Facebook will not use your WhatsApp messages for any purpose other than to assist us in operating and providing our services.”

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