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We have not ‘functionally changed’ WhatsApp privacy policy: Facebook

At a meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information and Technology headed by senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, Facebook, which owns digital communication platform WhatsApp, clarified that it has not “functionally changed” its privacy policy.

Officials of Facebook and Twitter deposed before the committee on the subject of “safeguarding citizens’ rights and prevention of misuse of social/online news media platforms”.

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) had recently written to Will Cathcart, Global CEO of WhatsApp, to withdraw the proposed changes to the Privacy Policy of the Facebook-owned messaging application for Indian users. The Ministry demanded that WhatsApp explain whether the metadata of users’ chats would be shared with other Facebook-owned companies.

The Facebook officials clarified that the privacy policy is “functionally” the same as what has been in existence since 2016. “They said that while it is functionally the same as the 2016 policy the platform has improved transparency standards,” a member said.

Data security

The committee also questioned Facebook on data security and its monetisation. The Facebook officials conceded that the revenue model of the platform was advertising-driven, though they insisted that it does not share the user data with any of its advertisers.

Members also asked Facebook to explain whether it is a publisher or merely an intermediary. Concerns were raised in the meeting that Facebook is governed solely by the U.S. community laws since it is a U.S.-based registered company.

BJP MPs flagged the recent ban of former U.S. President Donald Trump on Twitter. A section of BJP MPs criticised Twitter calling it a violation of freedom of expression. While another section flagged Twitter for not showing a similar responsiveness in India, where action on complaints on abusive content take up to six months for Twitter to react.

The BJP MPs also pointed out ‘temporary suspension’ of Home Minister Amit Shah’s account. The Twitter officials, however, clarified that Mr. Shah’s account was not suspended. A copyright claim on the display picture used by Mr. Shah led the algorithm to lock the account and it was restored within half an hour.

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Printable version | Mar 1, 2021 6:56:05 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/we-have-not-functionally-changed-whatsapp-privacy-policy-facebook/article33629149.ece

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