WhatsApp is combating for privateness as a consumer within the giant Indian market

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A WhatsApp logo is depicted on a t-shirt worn by a WhatsApp-Reliance Jio representative while the two companies drive to train users on the outskirts of Calcutta

From Sankalp Phartiyal

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – WhatsApp is fighting distrust around the world after updating its privacy policy to allow some user data to be shared with Facebook (NASDAQ 🙂 and other group companies. The backlash could thwart its ambitions in its largest market, India.

Though WhatsApp has yet to see mass installs of its app in India, users worried about privacy are increasingly downloading competing apps like Signal and Telegram, research companies say, to get them further up the download charts and this one To place 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 a commercial lightning flash costing tens of millions of rupees in at least 10 English and Hindi newspapers this week.

"Respect for your privacy is in our DNA," WhatsApp said in a newspaper announcement.

The update to the privacy policy "has no impact on the privacy of your messages with your friends and family". WhatsApp has also stated that the privacy policy changes are only related to how users interact with companies.

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

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

Parents Facebook and WhatsApp have bet a lot on India and any user who grumbles could belittle their plans.

Last year, Facebook invested $ 5.7 billion in the digital unit of Indian oil-to-tech giant Reliance – the social media giant's biggest deal since WhatsApp's $ 22 billion buyout in 2014 .

Much of the Indian investment depends on a WhatsApp and Reliance project that will allow around 30 million mum-and-pop shopkeepers to conduct digital transactions.

While the WhatsApp payment service, which was approved by India's flagship payment processors late last year after two years of waiting, is not covered by the privacy policy update, a significant shift in users to other messengers could mean losing to well-established competitors.

Concerns about

Users around the world were alarmed when WhatsApp stated on Jan. 4 that it had reserved the right to share some user data, including location and phone number, with Facebook and its entities such as Instagram and Messenger.

Even when WhatsApp tried to calm fears and reassure users that neither Facebook nor Facebook would have access to their messages, calls or call logs, the update to the privacy policy caused a storm worldwide that increased the number of signal downloads, when looking for alternative messengers.

According to internet research company Top10VPN, Signal was the most downloaded free app in India on both Apple (NASDAQ 🙂 iOS and Google (NASDAQ 🙂 Android, outperforming WhatsApp.

Signal downloads in India rose from about 15,000 days earlier to 7,100,000 between Jan. 5 and Jan. 12, according to analytics firm Sensor Tower. Telegram downloads increased 40% while WhatsApp downloads decreased 30% during the reporting period.

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

Indian startups also responded quickly.

"Here in India WhatsApp / Facebook are abusing their monopoly and millions of users take privacy for granted," said Vijay Shekhar Sharma, Managing Director of Fintech Paytm with the support of Alibaba, on Twitter.

"We should move on to @signalapp NOW. It's up to us to become victims or to reject such steps."

Another digital payments company, MobiKwik, had started using WhatsApp for business communications, but has decided to switch to Google and Signal, its boss said.

"I am not making myself available on WhatsApp and have advised 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 PhonePe from Google Pay and Walmart (NYSE :).

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