“The differentiated and discriminatory treatment of Indian and European users is giving rise to serious criticism,” says the Indian ministry.
The demand is creating a new headache for WhatsApp and its parent company in the United States, Facebook, which has made big bets on the South Asian nation to expand its payments and other business.
“The proposed changes raise serious concerns about the implications for the choice and autonomy of Indian citizens,” India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology wrote in an email to WhatsApp boss Will Cathcart, dated January 18.
“Therefore, you are called upon to withdraw the proposed changes,” the ministry wrote in the letter seen by Reuters news agency.
WhatsApp said in a statement that it is working to combat disinformation and remains available to answer any questions. “We would like to emphasize that this update does not expand our ability to share data with Facebook,” he said.
California-based Facebook invested $ 5.7 billion last year in the digital unit of Indian conglomerate Reliance, much of which was aimed at attracting tens of millions of traditional store owners to use the digital payments via WhatsApp.
With 400 million users in India, WhatsApp has big plans for the country’s growing digital payments space, including selling health insurance through partners.
Those aspirations could take a hit if Indians switch to rival messengers like Signal and Telegram, whose downloads increased after WhatsApp announced on January 4 that it could share limited user data with Facebook and its group companies.
It is “very worrying” that Indian users have not had the choice to refuse this data sharing with Facebook companies and that they have less choice than European users of the application, according to the letter from the Ministry of technology.
“This differential and discriminatory treatment of Indian and European users arouses serious criticism and betrays a lack of respect for the rights and interests of Indian citizens who constitute a substantial part of the WhatsApp user base,” he said. declared.
The ministry asked WhatsApp to answer 14 questions, including the categories of user data it collected, the profile of customers based on their usage and cross-border data flows.
The company said last week that it would delay launching the new policy until May from February, after it was criticized by users in India and elsewhere over the new terms.