The latest news on the WhatsApp rush in India amid the privacy debate

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WhatsApp is fighting global mistrust after updating its privacy policy to allow it to share some user data with parent Facebook and other group companies, and backlash may thwart its ambitions in its largest market , India.

Although WhatsApp has yet to see massive uninstalls of its app in India, users concerned about privacy are increasingly downloading rival apps like Signal and Telegram, research companies say, propelling them higher in downloading graphics and placing these apps ahead of their ubiquitous rival. India for the first time.

The reaction in India – where 400 million users exchange more messages on WhatsApp than anywhere in the world – has forced the messaging app to trigger an advertising blitz costing tens of millions of rupees this week in at least 10 English newspapers. and Hindi.

“Respecting your privacy is in our TBEN,” WhatsApp said in a newspaper ad.

He said updating his privacy policy “in no way affects the privacy of your messages with friends and family.” WhatsApp also said the changes to the privacy policy only affected user interactions with businesses.

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When asked for comment, WhatsApp referred Reuters to its published privacy statements.

The media campaign – similar to the one it waged two years ago when it was criticized in India for not doing enough to tackle disinformation – underscores the severity of the crisis for the most popular messaging platform. popular in the world.

Parents Facebook and WhatsApp have bet big on India and any grumbling user could jeopardize their plans.

Last year, Facebook invested $ 5.7 billion (roughly Rs. 41,600 crore) in the digital unit of Indian oil group Reliance – the social media giant’s biggest deal since its $ 22 billion takeover ( approximately Rs. 1,60,660 crore) from WhatsApp in 2014.

Much of the investment in India is based on a WhatsApp and Reliance project to enable around 30 million mum-and-pop store owners to conduct digital transactions.

While WhatsApp’s payment service, endorsed by India’s flagship payment processor late last year after a two-year wait, falls outside of the privacy policy update, all significant user switching to other messengers could mean losing to established rivals.

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Concerns abound

Users around the world were alarmed when WhatsApp said on January 4 that it reserved the right to share certain user data, including location and phone number, with Facebook and its units such as Instagram and Messenger. .

Even as WhatsApp sought to allay fears and assure users that neither it nor Facebook would have access to their messages, calls or call logs, the privacy policy update sparked a storm around the world. whole with an increase in Signal downloads as people searched for alternative messengers.

Signal was India’s most downloaded free app on Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android, overtaking WhatsApp, according to internet research firm Top10VPN.

Signal downloads in India jumped to 71,000,000 between Jan. 5 and 12, down from around 15,000 days earlier, according to analytics firm Sensor Tower. Telegram downloads increased 40% while WhatsApp downloads fell 30% during the period.

Manish Khatri, a Mumbai-based smartphone seller, said many of his customers ask if WhatsApp can read their messages.

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Indian startups have also reacted quickly.

“Here in India, WhatsApp / Facebook is abusing their monopoly and taking the privacy of millions of users for granted,” Vijay Shekhar Sharma, managing director of Alibaba-backed fintech Paytm, said on Twitter.

“We should switch to @signalapp NOW. It’s up to us to fall victim to or reject such moves.”

MobiKwik, another digital payment company, had started using WhatsApp for business communication, but decided to switch to Google and Signal, its boss said.

“I make myself unavailable on WhatsApp and have advised senior executives to do the same,” MobiKwik CEO Bipin Preet Singh told Reuters.

WhatsApp’s payment system in India competes with Paytm and MobiKwik, as well as Google Pay and PhonePe from Walmart.

© Thomson Reuters 2020


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