Surveillance Capitalism through Invasive Privacy Policy : Facebook / WhatsApp

In the digital age for any business to be successful it is necessary for the management of the organization to use financial data with efficient information systems. And it is imperative for organization to develop Management Information Systems for speedy retrieval of information to be accessed with protective layers granting access rights on demand. The fast flow of information helps an organization with better planning, decision making in the rapidly ever changing business environment. In the social interconnected digital era WhatsApp popularity is soaring and it has approximately 2.7 Billion active worldwide users and its use is pervasive across demographics around the world.

WhatsApp popularity as popular messaging application with rich media sharing options has been the reason for the quick surge. And then few years later the company launched WhatsApp for Business to help small and medium enterprises to access the digital tools. The nation became digitally empowered as majority of the business started using messaging as the mode of communication around the world. The medium helped SME to interact with customers and optimize sales. In the era of lab engineered global pandemic from China Digital messaging platforms like WhatsApp became lifeline for businesses. The usage of video conferencing increased exponentially with many SME using digital tools to conduct interactions. And due to deep penetration of WhatsApp many business were able to gow & expand their services across demographics.

And with Digital being the lifeline of majority of SME in India and WhatsApp for Business being widely used as Digital Tool, the Facebook Owned instant messenger platform announced new privacy policy few days back of sharing WhatsApp Business data with Facebook and has asked users to accept the terms for using the App beyond February 8th 2021. WhatsApp will share data relating to your Device ID, User ID, Advertising Data, Purchase Data, Purchase History, Coarse Location, Phone Number, Email Address, Contacts, Product Interaction, Crash Data, Performance Data, Other Diagnostic Data, Payment Info, Customer support, Product Interaction, Other User Content with Facebook. And Facebook Messenger in addition to the above data collects Other User Contact Info, Photos & Videos, Gameplay content, Other user Content, Search History, Browsing History, Advertising Data, IMessage, Sensitive Info, Phone Number search history. In short Facebook will create psychological profile of every user and track their behaviour for posting targeted advertising to the user.

In view of the above developments the traders body Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) has demanded to impose ban on instant messanging application WhatsApp & its parent social media digital tool Facebook. The body said the government should immediately restrict WhatsApp from implementing the new privacy policy and with 200 million active users in India the company can pose serious threat to both economy and national sovereignty and integrity of the nation.And its interesting to note that WhatsApp users in European Union are exempted from sharing their data with Facebook.The unilateral decision by WhatsApp evoke sharp criticism around the world. And the richest man in the world and SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk stated to use “Signal” followed by endorsement from Whistle blower Edward Snowden, Indian business tycoons Anand Mahindra, Phone Pe CEO Sameer Nigam, PayTM Vijay Shankar Sharma.

The endorsement caused mass scale exodus of users from WhatsApp to rival platforms “Signal” & “Telegram”. Signal soon became the top free app on the App Store and the servers crashed after spike in traffic. Telegram user base crosses 500 million monthly active users globally with 2.2 Million downloads. Sensing trouble WhatsApp ran a massive PR campaign with full-page newspaper advertisement. Many corporate have advised their company staff to refrain from sharing information in WhatsApp and reminding its not official channel of communication. The stock prices of Facebook tumbled on NASDAQ. Data privacy and theft is not new to Facebook. In 2016 Facebook was charged with sharing user data with Cambridge Analytica and in 2018 WhatsApp groups showed up on Google search and enabled any user to join groups. The Union Government has decided to step in with the Parliament considering passing the 2019 Personal Data Protection (PDP) Bill soon to protect the privacy of 40 crore or 400 million users. And to counter the growing influence of WhatsApp Indian Government is working towards development of Instant Messaging platform called GIMS and is expected to be released shortly in Hindi, English and eleven regional languages.

And in new development sensing global outrage WhatsApp has decided to defer the new invasive privacy policy regarding data sharing with Facebook for three months and the new update will be live on May 15th. It is interesting to note that WhatsApp Payment, a payment feature by Facebook-owned WhatsApp is now available for all the users in India. And in the best interest Indians should refrain from using the service unless further clarity arrives on the matter.

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