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WhatsApp privacy policy: No accounts will be deleted for not accepting update by May 15, 2021

WhatsApp privacy policy: No accounts will be deleted for not accepting update by May 15, 2021

Facebook-owned WhatsApp on Friday, May 7, 2021, said that no user account will be deleted for not accepting its privacy policy update, scrapping the deadline for which was set as Saturday, May 15, 2021. The messaging platform is facing a probe by the Competition Commission of India on the policy update, with the anti-trust watchdog taking exception to the company's 'take-it-or-leave-it' approach.

WhatsApp had announced a controversial policy update in January 2021 which said that it would be compulsory for users to accept or their accounts would be blocked. The policy update entails more sharing of data between WhatsApp and Facebook, especially user chats with business accounts on the platform. WhatsApp has been reiterating that the policy will not affect privacy of users' personal messages. The update was originally to come into effect on February 8, but was pushed to May 15 following a major backlash.

In a statement made by WhatsApp, it said that a majority of users who have received the new terms have accepted it, and that it would continue to send reminders to those who have not.

"We've spent the last few months working to clear up confusion and misinformation. As a reminder this update does not impact the privacy of personal messages for anyone. Our goal is to provide information about new options we are building that people will have, to message a business on WhatsApp, in the future. While the majority of users who have received the new terms of service have accepted them, we appreciate some people haven't had the chance to do so yet,” it stated.

“No accounts will be deleted on May 15 because of this update and no one in India will lose functionality of WhatsApp either. We will follow up with reminders to people over the next several weeks. We're grateful for the important role WhatsApp plays in people's lives and we'll take every opportunity to explain how we protect people’s personal messages and private information," a WhatsApp spokesperson said. 

The policy focused on addressing data sharing with its parent company Facebook, especially where business accounts were concerned, but there were no changes to its end-to-end encryption, which is present on all private chats.

In March, the CCI ordered a probe against the messaging platform over the new privacy policy update under Section 4 on abuse of dominant position.

CCI had said called WhatsApp's approach as "exploitative and exclusionary" the commission had concluded that WhatsApp is dominant in the relevant market for OTT messaging apps through smartphones in India and that its ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ nature of privacy policy and terms of service of WhatsApp merit a detailed investigation in view of the market position and market power enjoyed by WhatsApp. The company moved the Delhi High Court against the CCI order, and a hearing on the matter is pending.

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