The era today is an era of technology. The advent of technology has connected us with people sitting miles away from us. The number of social networking sites is on the rise. One such messaging platform with additional features of voice and video call, hosting a large audience, is Whatsapp. Whatsapp was founded by Jan Koum and Brian Acton in 2009. In Feb 2014, it was acquired by another popular social networking site, Facebook. Since then, it has become a widely used platform with some 2 billion users. [1]

From time to time, Whatsapp has introduced new features like ‘delete for everyone’, ‘status’etc. Recently whatsapp introduced its new privacy policy that has attracted wide criticism.


The new privacy policy says that WhatsApp can share its user data with ‘Facebook and its families of companies.’ This has raised privacy concerns in the minds of users. Earlier there was an option to opt-out of this sharing but now it has become mandatory. A deadline till Feb 8 was given to the users to accept this policy for continuing using WhatsApp. It means that if a person does not accept the new terms, his WhatsApp account would be deleted but not data. It is alleged that by accepting the new policy, WhatsApp will be able to collect hardware data like mobile network, phone’s battery, IP address, language, time zone, etc. which was not previously accessible. The new terms state that this all information can be further shared with Facebook.[2]

It is to be noted that this new privacy policy is not implemented in Europe because of the strict privacy rules. If any company breaches privacy norms, the European data protection authority can ask it to pay 4% of its global revenue as fine. [3]


In this digital time, the competition between digital giants has become a common thing. Along the same lines, Facebook is trying to compete with Google. Google uses youtube to record the preferences of the users and then shows them related advertisements. This helps it to make money through advertisement. Facebook is also trying to record the data of the WhatsApp users and then suggest related advertisements. This will be done by getting access to WhatsApp messages, status, location, etc., and then that data will be used by Facebook to show them related advertisements. Therefore, it can be said that new privacy rules are designed to benefit businesses. [4]


Although WhatsApp is claiming that the messages will remain encrypted, the policy is massively criticized due to privacy concerns.  According to a survey, more than half of the users are not happy with this policy and will leave this platform if this policy is implemented. The other messaging platforms that are emerging as viable substitutes are: Telegram and Signal. Out of the two, a signal appears as more privacy-friendly because the end to end encryption takes place through a signal. Telegram is still not popular since it doesn’t follow ‘end to end encryption’.

The Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Erdogan also showed his dislike by leaving WhatsApp. Mr. Elon Musk also endorsed WhatsApp’s rival signal.

The huge criticism and the fear of loss of such a wide range of users has made WhatsApp delay its policy. The new date for accepting the terms is 15 May. The WhatsApp has even put a status to clarify it’s stand. The Ministry of Information and Technology has written to WhatsApp CEO Will Cathart and asked WhatsApp to withdraw the changes made to the privacy policy. [5]


The stand by the Indian government to ask WhatsApp to withdraw it’s policy clearly portrays the privacy concerns associated with the new policy. The exclusion of European nations from this policy also points to something wrong in the privacy policy. The MEITY (Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology) has also criticised WhatsApp for this discriminatory treatment.

It is a fact recognized by the Supreme Court that the Right to privacy is a fundamental right under Article 21 in the case of  “K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India, 2017.” International declarations like UN Declaration on Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights, etc. also support the right to privacy. But it’s a pity that the ambiguity and subjectivity associated with the meaning of privacy make a violation of privacy norms common in India. When the Aadhar was rolled out, the subsequent risk of privacy intrusion made retired judge K.S. Puttaswamy file a case in court regarding Aadhar’s validity. Although the court did not clarify the legality of Aadhar the declaration of the right to privacy as a fundamental right is a milestone. [6]

The issue of privacy was also raised for the Aarogya Setu app. Aarogya Setu app is a  contact tracing app, rolled out by the government to trace the spread of COVID-19. Petitions were filed in Kerala High Court regarding the breach of privacy. Although the centre says that the app does not compromise privacy, the issue highlights the urgent need of creating legislation to protect the personal data and avoid privacy breach. [7]

The Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 introduced in Parliament was a step towards specifying the flow and usage of personal data and minimizing breach of personal data. But it will be implemented after analysis by Joint Parliamentary Committee. [8]


Privacy and data protection have become a necessity in this period of technology. But many technology giants are yet to acknowledge the importance of non-interference with an individual’s privacy. The new privacy policy launched by WhatsApp mirrors the minimal value given to privacy and data protection. If one company can launch a policy that could interfere with individual privacy, the other companies could also follow. Therefore it becomes important to have strict legislation that could avoid privacy breaches. It is alleged that if a Data Protection Authority as per Data Protection Bill, 2019 was set up, WhatsApp could not dare to launch a policy that breaches privacy. Therefore, the government must bring necessary laws to safeguard individual privacy and stop technology giants from interfering with individual privacy.

 Thus it can be concluded that:

“Privacy regulation is the need of hour,

Otherwise privacy breach is not far.”


[2] WhatsApp new privacy policy 2021: All your questions answered – iGeeksBlog

[3] Technology – Bloomberg



[6] India’s Supreme Court Upholds Right to Privacy as a Fundamental Right—and It’s About Time | Electronic Frontier Foundation (

[7] Right to privacy v. Aarogya Setu app – Lexlife India



Muskan Garg

Rajiv Gandhi National University Of Law, Patiala

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *