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WhatsApp privacy policy: CCI calls exploitative and exclusionary, orders probe

The commission had directed its investigation arm, the director general (DG), to complete the investigation and submit a report within 60 days.

This probe order against WhatsApp and its parent company Facebook comes after CCI took suo moto cognisance of the matter after considering media reports and the potential impact of the policy and terms for WhatsApp users and the market. This probe order against WhatsApp and its parent company Facebook comes after CCI took suo moto cognisance of the matter after considering media reports and the potential impact of the policy and terms for WhatsApp users and the market.
This probe order against WhatsApp and its parent company Facebook comes after CCI took suo moto cognisance of the matter after considering media reports and the potential impact of the policy and terms for WhatsApp users and the market. (Pixabay)

Competition regulator Competition Commission of India (CCI) has directed its investigation arm to conduct a probe into WhatsApp’s new privacy policy and terms of service that’s set to come into force soon. CCI has directed this probe on “prima facie” finding that WhatsApp has “contraveded competition law provisions” through its “exploitative and exclusionary conduct in the garb of the policy update”.

CCI said that a thorough and detailed investigation is needed to ascertain the full extent, scope and impact of data sharing through the involuntary consent of users.

The commission had directed its investigation arm, the director general (DG), to complete the investigation and submit a report within 60 days.

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This probe order against WhatsApp and its parent company Facebook comes after CCI took suo moto cognisance of the matter after considering media reports and the potential impact of the policy and terms for WhatsApp users and the market.

WhatsApp’s new privacy policy and terms of service states that business chats and business chat data are going to be shared with the concerned businesses, Facebook and companies owned by Facebook. Private chats, however, remain end-to-end encrypted as they always were, WhatsApp has explained, and that the chats and the data are not shared with anyone.

Also, users have no option to opt out of the new privacy policy and terms of service and have to mandatorily accept it in its entirety, otherwise their accounts will be made disfunctional.

"The Commission is of prima facie opinion that the 'take-it-or-leave-it' nature of privacy policy and terms of service of WhatsApp and the information sharing stipulations mentioned therein, merit a detailed investigation in view of the market position and market power enjoyed by WhatsApp," CCI said.

"We look forward to engaging with the CCI. WhatsApp remains committed to protecting people's personal communications with end-to-end encryption and providing transparency about how these new optional business features work," a WhatsApp spokesperson said regarding this CCI order.

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