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Author: Dr. Aditi Sharma, Assistant Professor from School of Law- Mody University.

WhatsApp, which has over 400 million users in India, including around 15 million business accounts, is more than just a messaging platform; it has become synonymous with message sending itself.

WhatsApp has grown in popularity in such a short period of time due to the rapid increase in the number of smartphone users in India, as well as the trust that people of all walks of life have placed in WhatsApp. Concerns about data privacy in reference to WhatsApp are not new – the app has been embroiled in debate over user data shared with its parent company, Facebook, since its acquisition by Facebook Inc in 2014.

However, a new WhatsApp privacy policy published on January 4 has sparked widespread concern about the security of user data around the world.

Whatsapp is essentially a data sharing application; be it account information, messages/texts, videos, images, voice messages, files, share location information, contacts, or any other information related to the use of their service. The new WhatsApp notification demands users to accept the app's updated privacy policy by February 8 in order to continue using it. As per policy, WhatsApp collects extensive meta data from users' phones, such as internet protocol addresses and phone number area codes, in order to estimate users' geographical location. More importantly, the privacy policy confirms that WhatsApp will give Facebook access to messages shared with businesses via the messenger app, allowing Facebook to influence user behavior through social networking.

In India, the massive shift from WhatsApp towards other platforms appears to be led primarily by urban millennials in their past century, many of whom claim to have been uneasy with WhatsApp's privacy policies for years. With the ever-increasing demand for social media, people are bound by the terms and conditions of usage. They fall prey for their needs. As a rationale human being one must adhere to the privacy policies of their own livings. Its not just about social platform but everyday life is revolving around the privacy matter. Offence involves two-way traffic; nobody could be termed as real culprit.

On the other side of the coin, users believe that abandoning WhatsApp makes sense, even as people continue to question the data policies of other digital platforms. What is the security to use them? Merely by switching apps won’t help. Social media need not be fully relied upon. One needs to have in depth knowledge before agreeing to terms and conditions blind-fourthly.

Ultimately, we as a consumers have to abide by the “Caveat emptor” rule, which says let the buyer beware. Raising voice over unworthy platforms is perfectly fine, but what is unworthy needs to be clarified. The point is technology cannot guarantee the privacy of personal data on its own. The majority of privacy protection protocols are still vulnerable to authorised individuals who may gain access to the data. Above all, the burden on these authorized individuals is about privacy law, not technology.

Rethink before you use.

Remember—if the product is free, then consumer is the product. This isn’t complicated.


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