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Tuesday, June 22, 2021

A shot in the butt? WhatsApp is about to lose its supremacy in India

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Amit Kumar
Amit Kumar is editor-in-chief and founder of Revyuh Media. He has been ensuring journalistic quality and shaping the future of Revyuh.com - in terms of content, text, personnel and strategy. He also develops herself further, likes to learn new things and, as a trained mediator, considers communication and freedom to be essential in editorial cooperation. After studying and training at the Indian Institute of Journalism & Mass Communication He accompanied an ambitious Internet portal into the Afterlife and was editor of the Scroll Lib Foundation. After that He did public relations for the MNC's in India. Email: amit.kumar (at) revyuh (dot) com ICE : 00 91 (0) 99580 61723

WhatsApp is trying to combat the distrust generated worldwide by the latest update of its terms and privacy policies. The document establishes that the application will be able to share user data with Facebook and other group companies. This decision could thwart their plans in their largest market, India.

Although WhatsApp has not yet registered massive uninstalls in the country, users are increasingly downloading other rival applications such as Signal and Telegram, which for the first time lead the download charts, according to data from research companies.

The reaction in India, where 400 million users exchange more messages on WhatsApp than anywhere in the world, forced this messaging application to launch an advertising campaign valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars in at least 10 newspapers in English and Hindi.

“Respect for your privacy is encoded in our DNA,” says WhatsApp in one of its ads.

The update of privacy policies “does not affect in any way the confidentiality of your communications with your friends and family,” emphasized the application, which also mentioned that these changes are only related to interactions between users and companies. 

The media campaign, similar to the one WhatsApp launched two years ago in the Asian country when it was criticized for not doing enough to curb misinformation, underscores the severity of the crisis for the world’s most popular messaging platform. 

WhatsApp and its parent company, Facebook, have bet heavily on India, but any discontent from users could undermine their plans.

In 2020 Facebook invested $ 5.7 billion in the digital unit of the Indian group Reliance, which became the tech giant’s largest deal since its purchase of WhatsApp in 2014 for $ 22 billion.

A large part of India’s investment relies on the WhatsApp and Reliance project to enable approximately 30 million store owners to conduct digital transactions.

While WhatsApp’s payment service, approved by India’s main payment processor at the end of 2020 after two years of waiting, will not be affected by updating the privacy policy, users’ interest in other messaging apps could cause it to lose ground to its well-established rivals.

Users around the world were alarmed when WhatsApp announced on January 4 that it reserves the right to share some user data, including location and phone number, with Facebook and other applications, such as Instagram and Messenger.

When the platform tried to defuse fears and assure users that neither it nor Facebook would have access to their messages, calls, or call logs, the privacy policy update still triggered a storm of global reactions that sparked an increase in downloads of other similar applications.

Signal was the most downloaded free app in India on both iOS and Android, surpassing WhatsApp, according to research company Top10VPN. Signal downloads in India amounted to 7,100,000 between January 5 and January 12, according to analysis company Sensor Tower. Telegram downloads increased by 40%, while WhatsApp downloads fell by 30% over the same period.

Manish Khatri, a Mumbai-based smartphone marketer, explained that many of his clients were asking if WhatsApp could read their messages.

Indian startups also reacted quickly. “Here in India WhatsApp / Facebook are abusing their monopoly and taking away the privacy of millions of users,” Vijay Shekhar Sharma, CEO of Alibaba-backed fintech Paytm, said on Twitter.

“We should move to the Signal app now. It is up to us whether we become victims or reject such steps,” he stressed.

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

“I am not available on WhatsApp and have advised senior executives to do the same,” explained MobiKwik CEO Bipin Preet Singh.

In general terms, what this new commitment to information sharing means is that WhatsApp will collect both a user’s and their contacts’ data. Despite this, Facebook won’t be able to access conversations to read what’s being shared in messages, because they’re end-to-end encrypted.

All these changes will take effect on February 8, and if the user continues to use WhatsApp from that date, they will have to accept the new terms of use. If the customer does not agree to share certain data with WhatsApp, then they will no longer be able to use the application.

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