In a strongly worded letter to WhatsApp CEO Will Cathcart, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology said India is home to the largest user base of WhatsApp globally and is one the biggest markets for its services.
The ministry asked WhatsApp to withdraw the proposed changes and reconsider its approach to information privacy, freedom of choice and data security.
Stating that Indians should be properly respected, the ministry said, “any unilateral changes to the WhatsApp Terms of Service and Privacy would not be fair and acceptable.”
With over 400 million users in India, the changes will have a disproportionate impact on the country’s citizens, it said. It asked WhatsApp to provide details of the services provided by it in India, categories of data collected and permissions and consents sought.
WhatsApp has also been asked to provide policy on data and information security, privacy and encryption.
It has also been asked to detail data sharing with other apps and if it captures information about other apps running on the mobile phones of the user.
Besides, complete technical architecture and server hosting data of Indian users have been asked to be furnished along with details of access to a third party.
The changes “enable WhatsApp, and other Facebook companies, to make invasive and precise inferences about users which may not be reasonably foreseen or expected by users in the ordinary course of assessing these services, the ministry said. The updated terms would enable WhatsApp to collect “highly invasive and granular metadata” such as time, frequency and duration of interactions, group names, payments and transaction data, online status, location indicators as well as any messages shared by users with business accounts.