In a strongly worded letter to WhatsApp CEO Will Cathcart, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) said India is home to the largest user base of WhatsApp globally and is one the biggest markets for its services.
"Therefore, you are called upon to withdraw the proposed changes".
Also, Indian users are being subjected to differential treatment when compared to their European counterparts where the changes do not apply.
A recent survey has revealed that only 18 per cent of users may continue using WhatsApp in India while 36 per cent will reduce their usage drastically. The exhaustive list of questions (14 in total) sent to the company includes queries around the exact categories of data that the company collects from Indian users.
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"This "all-or-nothing" approach takes away any meaningful choice from Indian users".
The ministry asked WhatsApp to withdraw the proposed changes and reconsider its approach to information privacy, freedom of choice and data security. Just over the last fortnight, Signal saw almost 23 lakh downloads, compared to 17 lakh downloads for WhatsApp. The sheer criticism regarding this move has not only forced it to delay the implementation deadline but also caused an exodus that is seeing users flock to Telegram and Signal. Responding to the backlash last week, the Facebook-owned app, which serves more than 2 billion users worldwide, said it was deferring the enforcement of the planned policy to May 15.
MeitY has raised strong objections to the alleged differential treatment by WhatsApp to its users in India and the European Union, saying it shows lack of respect for the rights of Indian citizens, who form one of the largest user bases for the messaging app.
New Delhi also shared disappointment with the timing of this update, which to be fair WhatsApp unveiled previous year.
"Since the Parliament is seized of the issue, making such a momentous change for Indian users at this time puts the cart before the horse". "Be it WhatsApp, be it Facebook, be it any digital platform. You are free to do business in India but do it in a manner without impinging upon the rights of Indians who operate there", added Prasad.