New developments in India have Facebook’s subsidiary chat application WhatsApp battling pushback from not only end users and consumer advocates, but the Indian government itself.
Critics cite the collection of locations and phone numbers of users as an egregious violation of privacy principles.
“It virtually gives a 360-degree profile into a person’s online activity,” said lawyer Chaitanya Rohilla in a communication with the Delhi High Court.
In response, WhatsApp has delivered press messages saying that “your privacy is coded into our DNA” – which many would say sounds like elaborate gaslighting given the actual changes and structure of the company’s telecommunications strategy.
Some of the 400 million Indian users in WhatsApp’s biggest market are now turning to messaging platforms like Telegram and Signal.
“Downloads of Signal in India jumped to 7,100,000 between January 5 and January 12, from about 15,000 days earlier, according to analytics firm Sensor Tower,” reports Al-Jazeera this morning. “Telegram downloads surged 40 percent, while WhatsApp downloads fell 30 percent in the period.”
Al-Jazeera writers also cover a collaborative project that could be hurt by anti-WhatsApp sentiment in India, writing:
“Parent Facebook and WhatsApp have bet big on India and any user grumbling could dent their plans. Last year, Facebook invested $5.7bn in the digital unit of Indian oil-to-tech group Reliance – the social media giant’s biggest deal since its $22bn buyout of WhatsApp in 2014. A huge part of the India investment hinges on a WhatsApp and Reliance project to allow about 30 million mom-and-pop store owners to transact digitally.”
It’s not India’s first foray into anti-technology sentiment –repeated attempts at banning cryptocurrency trading have put India’s government in the headlines in the technology sector.
But India is not the only country incensed by WhatsApp’s new policies. Reuters also notes that Turkey’s Competition Board is reviewing the changes according to privacy and security standards.
This could hurt a platform that has been desperately trying to consolidate its hold on the Indian user base. Keep an eye out as the messaging wars continue.