Defending privateness


Social media platform WhatsApp continues to be at loggerheads with the government over its controversial revised privacy policy, with the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology saying it is unfair for the company to impose discriminatory conditions to strengthen its position in the Indian market. The company, in turn, has clarified that the new privacy policy was needed to make business accounts function better. But there have been reservations over the company’s decision to withdraw or restrict some of the functions of the app, as the same conditions do not apply to many other countries. There have also been question marks over transparency, as users question the platform’s need to collect so much of data in the guise of protecting commercial interests.

WhatsApp had been at the receiving end earlier also when it was alleged that the platform was being used to forward messages whose authenticity could not be verified, leading to proliferation of fake news. It had led the platform to effect changes in its features to prevent this. There have also been reports of data mined from social media platforms being used to influence the electoral prospects of candidates. In times of the pandemic, with most work and even political functioning switching over to the digital form, the need for privacy and checking intrusion will be felt even more. While the company claims its messages are end-to-end encrypted and can neither be read nor stored, its need for sharing of data calls for more scrutiny.

Concerns over storage and privacy of data have been there even in the case of Aadhaar and the Aarogya Setu app with chances of a possible leakage and misuse. With every detail of a person available at the click of a mouse, privacy concerns are justified. While the government as well as the company may have a point in storing data to streamline their functioning, remove hassles and benefit the people, the hazards too are for real. India badly needs a national privacy policy to ensure uniform management and regulation of data.



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