CCI Orders Inquiry into Whatsapp’s New Data Policy Changes

April 08, 2021

We reported in our March 2021 Newsletter that Whatsapp, the most popular messenger app in India, had decided to enforce new privacy terms for users in India.  The terms allow sharing data with their parent company, Facebook.  Whatsapp had postponed the effective date of the change from February 8th to May 15th, 2021. On March 25th, the Competition Commission of India (CCI), ordered a probe into Whatsapp’s policy. The CCI said that with no fear of erosion of its user base, Facebook-owned Whatsapp was in a position to compromise the protection of personal user data. Further, it concluded that user are effectively locked into using the app until all or most of their social contacts also done the same. The investigation has been ordered under Section 26 of the Competition Act, with directions to complete the probe within 60 days. The CCI said that it found Facebook’s responses to its queries not only evasive, but in clear non-compliance of its directions. Also, it was not clear from the policy whether historical data of users would also be shared with Facebook-owned firms, and whether data would be shared in respect of those users who are not present on other apps of Facebook.
HRPI View: Wait and watch this space for further news on this subject. We continue to advise companies to decide what social platforms they must leverage for internal business purpose, as well as to formulate a data privacy policy, if not done already.