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Whatsapp

WhatsApp Treating Indians, Europeans Differently Is Concerning: Government


WhatsApp is treating Indian users differently from Europeans over opting out of its new privacy policy which is a matter of concern for the government and it is looking into the issue, the Centre informed the Delhi High Court on Monday.

The central government told the high court that it was also a matter of concern that Indian users were being “unilaterally” subjected to the change in privacy policy by the instant messaging platform.

The submissions were made before Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva by Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Chetan Sharma during hearing of a petition by a lawyer against the new privacy policy of WhatsApp which is owned by Facebook.

At the start of the hearing, the court reiterated what it had said on January 18 that WhatsApp was a private app and it was optional whether to download it or not.

“It is not mandatory to download it. Every other app has similar terms and conditions regarding sharing of user information with others,” the court said and asked why the petitioner was challenging the policy of WhatsApp.

The court also observed that the Personal Data Protection Bill was being considered by Parliament and the government was looking into issues raised in the plea.

During the hearing, ASG Sharma told the court that by not giving Indian users the option to opt out of sharing their data with other companies of Facebook, WhatsApp prima facie appears to be treating users with an “all or nothing approach”.

“Insofar the government is concerned, while the privacy policy offered by WhatsApp to its European users specifically prohibits use of any information shared with Facebook companies for the companies” purposes, this clause is not found in the privacy policy offered to Indian citizens who form a very very substantial part of WhatsApp’s user base.

“This differential treatment is certainly a cause of concern for the government. It is also a matter of concern for the government that Indian users are being unilaterally subjected to the changes in the privacy policy,” the ASG told the court.

“This leverages the social significance of WhatsApp to force users into a bargain which may infringe on their interests in information privacy and information security,” he further said.

He also told the court that though the issue was between two private individuals – WhatsApp and its users – the scope and expanse of WhatsApp “make it a germane ground that reasonable and cogent policies are put in place which is being done by the Personal Data Protection Bill and discussions are very much on”.

Sharma said the government was already looking into the issue and has sent a communication to WhatsApp seeking certain information.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for WhatsApp, told the court that the communication has been received and will be responded to.

The court, thereafter, listed the matter for hearing on March 1.

The petition, by a lawyer, has contended that the updated privacy policy violates users right to privacy under the Constitution.

The plea has claimed that the new privacy policy of WhatsApp allows full access into a user’s online activity without there being any supervision by the government.

Under the new policy, users can either accept it or exit the app, but they cannot opt not to share their data with other Facebook-owned or third party apps.


Does WhatsApp’s new privacy policy spell the end for your privacy? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.



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Whatsapp

New Signal Update Brings WhatsApp-Like Features


Signal appears to have started developing a range of new features that are already available on WhatsApp. The new changes have come into notice just days after the instant messaging app welcomed a rush of new users. Signal’s rise in popularity has come in the wake of a privacy policy update by WhatsApp that has spiralled into a public outrage. One of the changes that Signal has in the works that mimics WhatsApp is chat wallpapers. Signal could also add an ‘About’ option that looks similar to the one on WhatsApp.

As noticed by WhatsApp beta tracker WABetaInfo, Signal 5.3.1 beta for Android carries the new chat wallpaper feature. It can be accessed by going to Settings > Appearance > Chat wallpaper. There are 21 pre-set wallpapers to choose from, though users can also add their own images as chat wallpapers on the app. An option to set a dark theme to dim the chat wallpaper is also available.

Signal has added a Chat wallpaper option for beta testers that works similar to WhatsApp

 

WhatsApp has had chat wallpapers for quite some time now. It also added custom wallpapers for chats in December.

The latest Signal beta also carries the custom ‘About’ option, which allows users to tell their contacts about their status. It is available in the Profile option in the settings menu on the Signal app. WhatsApp has a similar ‘About’ option.

signal about status option image gadgets 360 Signal

Signal has brought an ‘About’ option that is just similar to WhatsApp’s About status

 

Signal has also added support for animated stickers in the latest update, with a “Day by Day” as the first official animated sticker pack. The Signal desktop app also allows users to create new animated stickers and share them directly with their friends, as noted by WABetaInfo.

Animated stickers arrived on WhatsApp in July last year. It is also reportedly bringing the ability to import third-party animated stickers in the coming weeks.

Signal is also bringing a low-data mode for calls, which is already available on WhatsApp. The app is could also let users look at their chats on the iOS share sheet — something that WhatsApp brought last year for iPhone users.

Earlier this week, Signal brought the ability to let users choose when their media files should be automatically downloaded. The app also recently changed the limit on group calls from five participants to eight. Both these features are already present on WhatsApp. The Facebook-owned app increased group call limit to eight people in April.

Signal is also said to have implemented the option to let users create a shareable group invite link. This also works similar to how you can invite people to your groups on WhatsApp.


Does WhatsApp’s new privacy policy spell the end for your privacy? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.



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Tech News

PhonePe Surpasses Google Pay to Become Top UPI App in December: NPCI Data


PhonePe, the digital payments platform owned by Walmart, has surpassed Google Pay and emerged as the top unified payments interface (UPI) app in December. The platform processed 902.03 million transactions accounting for Rs. 1,82,126.88 crores in total, according to the latest data released by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI). Google Pay, on the other hand, has dropped to the second position with 854.49 million transactions amounting Rs. 1,76,199.33 crores. Both PhonePe and Google Pay account for more than 78 percent of the total 2,234.16 million UPI transactions that took place in December. The two apps also captured over 86 percent of the overall UPI transaction volume of Rs. 4,16,176.21 crores.

The data provided by the NPCI shows that PhonePe has seen over 3.87 percent increase in UPI transaction volume and 3.8 percent spike in transaction value in December when compared to the 868.4 million of transaction volume and Rs. 1,75,453.85 crores of transaction value recorded in November.

In contrast, Google Pay has seen a drastic fall of over 11 percent in transaction volume and over 9.15 percent drop in transaction value in December. It dominated the UPI apps market in November, with 960.02 million transactions at an overall value of Rs. 1,61,418.19 crores.

Paytm Payments Bank has come third — after PhonePe and Google Pay. It resulted in 256.36 million transactions worth Rs. 31,291.83 crores in December, as per the NPCI data.

Amazon Pay and NPCI’s BHIM app have emerged as the fourth and fifth leading UPI apps in terms of transaction volume. While Amazon Pay initiated 40.53 million transactions worth Rs. 3,508.93 crores, BHIM processed 24.80 million transactions worth Rs. 7,748.29 crores in December.

In terms of value, Cred has overtaken Amazon Pay with processing 3.61 million transactions worth Rs. 3,793.32 in December, the NPCI data shows.

WhatsApp also formally joined the payments market in November. Although the Facebook-owned app was allowed to play against the likes of PhonePe, Google Pay, and Paytm in a graded manner initially, it has managed to see over 161 percent increase in volume and over 114 percent increase in value of transactions in December — just prior to the public outrage over its privacy policy update that it eventually delayed until May.

According to NPCI, WhatsApp processed 810,000 transactions worth Rs. 29.72 crores in December, up from 310,000 transactions worth Rs. 13.87 crores in November.

Overall, UPI transactions have grown 1.08 percent in volume and 6.43 percent in value in December. There are also 207 banks with UPI support, up from 200 banks in November.

In November, the NPCI announced a cap of 30 percent on the total volume of UPI transactions processed by third party app (TPA) providers. That cap has come into place since the beginning of January and is believed to majorly impact platforms including PhonePe and Google Pay, while giving a scope to increase further to Paytm and MobiKwik.


What will be the most exciting tech launch of 2021? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.



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Headline USA

WhatsApp delays its changes in user privacy | The State

WhatsApp has decided to postpone until May the entry into force of the changes in its Conditions and Privacy policy, that were initially going to be effective on February 8, and has reiterated the protection of conversations with end-to-end encryption that prevents the company from accessing its content.

At the beginning of January, WhatsApp users began to see a message warning of changes in the service about the data that WhatsApp collects from users and their treatment, as well as relating to the way in which business they can use Facebook’s hosted services to store and manage their chats.

In the same message that warned that in order to continue using the messaging service, users had to accept the changes.

The company then told Europa Press that the new policies do not imply material changes in the processing of data for users, and that WhatsApp still does not share this information with Facebook, for use by the parent company to improve products and advertisements.

However, the confusion among users, the company has decided to postpone the date on which these changes will take effect (initially February 8), without this change involving suspensions or deletions of accounts among those who until now had not accepted the message informative, as explained in a statement.

From WhatsApp they also point out that they will take “a series of measures to clarify the misinformation regarding the way in which privacy and security work on WhatsApp.” Subsequently, and gradually, users will have to review the policy, “at their own pace”, before the new options for companies take effect on May 15.

It has also reiterated that personal conversations on the platform are protected with end-to-end encryption, which means that “neither WhatsApp nor Facebook can see those private messages.”

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Whatsapp

Don’t Join WhatsApp If Privacy Policy Not Acceptable: Delhi High Court


The Delhi High Court on Monday said that accepting the new privacy policy of instant messaging app WhatsApp was a “voluntary” thing and one can choose to not join the platform if one did not agree with its terms and conditions. The court also said that if the terms and conditions of most mobile apps are read, “you would be surprised as to what all you are consenting to”.  

“Even Google Maps captures all your data and stores it,” the court said.

“It is a private app. Don’t join it. It is a voluntary thing, don’t accept it. Use some other app,” Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva said to the petitioner, a lawyer, who has challenged WhatsApp’s new privacy policy, which was earlier slated to come into effect in February but has now been deferred till May.

The court further said it could not understand what data would be leaked according to the petitioner and since the issue requires consideration, it will be listed on January 25 due to paucity of time on Monday.

The central government also agreed with the court that the issue needs to be analysed.  
WhatsApp and Facebook, represented by senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Mukul Rohatgi, told the court that the plea was not maintainable and many of the issues raised in it were without any foundation. They further told the court that private chat messages between family and friends would remain encrypted and cannot be stored by WhatsApp and this position would not change under the new policy.

The change in policy would only affect the business chats on WhatsApp, they said.

The petition has contended that the updated privacy policy violates users’ right to privacy under the Constitution. The plea has claimed that the new privacy policy of WhatsApp allows full access into a user’s online activity without there being any supervision by the government.


Does WhatsApp’s new privacy policy spell the end for your privacy? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.



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Tech News

Signal Back Up After Outage


Signal said it had restored its services a day after the application faced technical difficulties as it dealt with a flood of new users after rival messaging app WhatsApp announced a controversial change in privacy terms.

Signal has seen a rise in downloads following a change in WhatsApp’s privacy terms, that required WhatsApp users to share their data with both Facebook and Instagram.

Signal users might see errors in some chats as a side effect to the outage, but will be resolved in the next update of the app, the company said in a tweet.

The error does not affect the security of the chat, the company added.

The non-profit Signal Foundation based in Silicon Valley, which currently oversees the app, was launched in February 2018 with Brian Acton, who co-founded WhatsApp before selling it to Facebook, providing initial funding of $50 million (roughly Rs. 365 crores).

Signal faced a global outage that began on January 15. Although users could open the app and send messages, nothing was actually delivered.

Signal later sent Gadgets 360 a message with the following statement from its COO Aruna Harder: “We have been adding new servers and extra capacity at a record pace every single day this week, but today exceeded even our most optimistic projections. Millions upon millions of new users are sending a message that privacy matters, and we are working hard to restore service for them as quickly as possible.”

© Thomson Reuters 2021


Does WhatsApp’s new privacy policy spell the end for your privacy? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.





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Whatsapp

WhatsApp Is Still Sharing a Lot of Your Data


WhatsApp announced that it will delay its new privacy policy by a month, from February 8 to May 15, after facing a lot of backlash. The reaction was so strong that millions of new users signed up for alternatives such as Telegram and Signal — around 25 million new users signed up for Telegram in just three days, and Signal became the number one app in its category in many parts of the world, bringing on so many people that it couldn’t keep up with the demand, and took nearly two days to resolve a major outage that started on Friday.

Facebook-owned WhatsApp launched its new privacy policy with the goal to address how people will talk to businesses. The data collected would only relate to business chats, WhatsApp clarified, released an FAQ page on its site to emphasise that it doesn’t read private messages. 

“WhatsApp was built on a simple idea: what you share with your friends and family stays between you. This means we will always protect your personal conversations with end-to-end encryption, so that neither WhatsApp nor Facebook can see these private messages. It’s why we don’t keep logs of who everyone’s messaging or calling. We also can’t see your shared location and we don’t share your contacts with Facebook,” it said in a blog post, and added: “This update does not expand our ability to share data with Facebook.”

This, coupled with Signal’s issues which lasted more than a day before being fully resolved, might have people thinking that they can go back to WhatsApp — it remains a very reliable service, and the company showed that it’ll listen to the users, right?

The fact is that WhatsApp already shares a lot of information with Facebook. When it said that the update doesn’t expand the ability to share data with Facebook, that’s because it has been able to share your data for years now.

That doesn’t mean that there wasn’t a lot of disinformation flowing over the last one week. If you’re the kind of person who was already on Signal, then you’ve probably been asked several times a day about whether people should switch app. And you’ve also probably been asked, “is WhatsApp reading my groups and messages?” And the simple answer is no, your messages aren’t being read (unless you’re the target of something like the Pegasus hack, or someone has access to your phone, or has access to your backups on the cloud… there will always be some exceptions). WhatsApp uses the same end-to-end encryption that Signal does, and unlike Telegram, WhatsApp turns E2E on by default in all chats, whereas you have to initiate a secret chat in Telegram.

But a lot of the other factors that people got quite worried about, have always been the case. An image that went viral shows the App Store privacy labels that tell you what information an app is collecting. While Signal collects no data linked to you, WhatsApp is looking at your purchases, financial information, location, contact information, contacts, content, identifiers, usage data, and diagnostics.

This is something that has not changed even though WhatsApp has changed its mind about enforcing its policies right away. If you were worried that Mark Zuckerberg is looking at your messages then that wasn’t going to happen anyway.

But ever since 2016, WhatsApp has been sharing a lot of other data with Facebook, and that’s going to continue. If you look at the “Affiliated companies” section of the privacy policy, it explains that Facebook can use the data it gathers about you to profile you more accurately, and use that to serve ads, or show friend suggestions, for example. So it could (as a hypothetical example) know that you go to Decathlon stores often in real life, and therefore fill your Instagram feed with a lot more ads for fitness products.

As noted by researcher Wolfie Christl, Facebook said in 2014 that it would be unable to match Facebook and WhatsApp accounts reliably. That obviously didn’t hold true. But in places where there are strong laws to protect a user’s privacy, WhatsApp has to toe the line. In Europe, the company offers a different privacy policy.

In India, the government has been discussing a Data Protection law for several years — after many false starts, a Data Protection Bill was proposed more than a year ago, but has not proceeded further. Last month, BJP MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar said the joint parliamentary committee is going to redraw the bill, so this will take more time. If we want European protections, we will need European legislation first.

But in the meanwhile, WhatsApp might have changed its stance on its new privacy policy, but the data being shared by Facebook is not going to stop. Switching to Signal, a non-profit run on donations, makes sense as it gets no benefit by tracking you. Many of us have been using Signal for years, and also using alternative search engines like DuckDuckGo, to enhance our privacy. But at the same time, don’t fall for the misinformation that your private messages are being read.





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Whatsapp

WhatsApp Delays New Privacy Policy by Three Months Amid Severe Criticism


WhatsApp announced delaying by three months the implementation of a new privacy policy that has faced massive backlash with tens of millions of its users moving from the platform to rivals like Signal and Telegram. The policy change was originally scheduled to come into effect on February 8, the Facebook-owned company said. It has clarified that the update does not affect data sharing with Facebook with regard to personal conversations or other profile information and only addresses business chats in the event a user converses with a company”s customer service platform through WhatsApp.

“We’ve heard from so many people how much confusion there is around our recent update. There”s been a lot of misinformation causing concern and we want to help everyone understand our principles and the facts,” WhatsApp said in a company blog.

“WhatsApp was built on a simple idea: what you share with your friends and family stays between you. This means we will always protect your personal conversations with end-to-end encryption, so that neither WhatsApp nor Facebook can see these private messages. It”s why we don’t keep logs of who everyone”s messaging or calling. We also can’t see your shared location and we don’t share your contacts with Facebook,” it said further.

Asserting that none of that changes, the company said, “The update includes new options people will have to message a business on WhatsApp, and provides further transparency about how we collect and use data. While not everyone shops with a business on WhatsApp today, we think that more people will choose to do so in the future and it”s important people are aware of these services. This update does not expand our ability to share data with Facebook.” The company said it was moving back the date on which people will be asked to review and accept the terms. “No one will have their account suspended or deleted on February 8.

We’re also going to do a lot more to clear up the misinformation around how privacy and security works on WhatsApp. We”ll then go to people gradually to review the policy at their own pace before new business options are available on May 15,” it added.

The company released a separate blog post Friday trying to clear up the confusion, and it included a chart that specifies what information is protected when someone uses WhatsApp. Facebook executives, including Instagram chief Adam Mosseri and WhatsApp head Will Cathcart, also used Twitter to try and clear up the confusion. Facebook”s poor privacy track record, and the fact that WhatsApp has over time turned its sights on monetising the platform for its large international user base, has eroded trust in the chat app, which, in turn, has had the effect of turning a relatively mundane update into a worldwide controversy.

WhatsApp now says it is now going to use the three-month delay to better communicate both the changes in its new policy and its long-standing privacy practices around personal chats, location sharing, and other sensitive data. “We’re now moving back the date on which people will be asked to review and accept the terms,” the blog post reads.

The company said no one will be losing access to the app if they didn’t agree to the new terms of service agreement that communicated the changes earlier this month. “We’re also going to do a lot more to clear up the misinformation around how privacy and security works on WhatsApp. We”ll then go to people gradually to review the policy at their own pace before new business options are available on May 15,” it added.


Does WhatsApp’s new privacy policy spell the end for your privacy? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.





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Technology US

WhatsApp to delay new privacy policy amid mass confusion about Facebook data sharing

WhatsApp on Friday announced a three-month delay of a new privacy policy originally slated to go into effect on February 8th following widespread confusion over whether the new policy would mandate data sharing with Facebook.

The update does not in fact affect data sharing with Facebook with regard to user chats or other profile information; WhatsApp has repeatedly clarified that its update addresses business chats in the event a user converses with a company’s customer service platform through WhatsApp.

“We’ve heard from so many people how much confusion there is around our recent update. There’s been a lot of misinformation causing concern and we want to help everyone understand our principles and the facts,” the company wrote in a new blog post published today.

Since 2016, WhatsApp has shared certain information with Facebook, including your phone number, unless you were one of the select few users who chose to opt out of data sharing while the option was still available that year. WhatsApp does not, however, look at people’s chat messages or listen to their phone calls, and WhatsApp conversations are end-to-end encrypted to protect against those abuses.

Despite this, a pop-up informing users of the new change included mention of how WhatsApp partners with Facebook, and it also included an ultimatum instructing users to delete their account if they chose not to agree to the new terms. That gave people the idea they were being railroaded into new, more invasive terms.

The company released a separate blog post this week trying to clear up the confusion, and it included a chart that specifies what information is protected and not shared when someone uses WhatsApp.

But numerous media reports highlighting the addition of new, broad language in the privacy policy (language WhatsApp says has been misconstrued to imply mandated data sharing) and misinformation on social media have coalesced into a full-blown WhatsApp privacy backlash. The result has been a surge in sign-ups for messaging competitors like Signal and Telegram.

Facebook executives, including Instagram chief Adam Mosseri and WhatsApp head Will Cathcart, used Twitter to try to clear up the confusion, it seems with little success. Facebook’s poor privacy track record, and the fact that WhatsApp has over time turned its sights on monetizing the platform for its large international user base, has eroded trust in the chat app, which, in turn, has had the effect of turning a relatively mundane update into a worldwide controversy.

WhatsApp says it’s now going to use this three-month delay to better communicate both the changes in its new policy and its long-standing privacy practices around personal chats, location sharing, and other sensitive data. “We’re now moving back the date on which people will be asked to review and accept the terms,” the blog post reads.

WhatsApp says no one will be losing access to the app if they didn’t agree to the new terms of service agreement that communicated the changes earlier this month. “We’re also going to do a lot more to clear up the misinformation around how privacy and security works on WhatsApp. We’ll then go to people gradually to review the policy at their own pace before new business options are available on May 15,” the company says.

WhatsApp tells The Verge the policy won’t be changing when it does come out. The intent of the update is communicating to users that messages with businesses on WhatsApp may be stored on Facebook servers, which necessitates data sharing between the two companies and would allow Facebook to share that information between its main social network and Instagram for ad targeting and to improve its digital commerce business. WhatsApp still intends to release the update on May 15th to coincide with new business chat features it began previewing back in October.

But the company hopes the extra time will help it get a handle on the controversy and better improve its messaging around what’s actually changing.

“The update includes new options people will have to message a business on WhatsApp, and provides further transparency about how we collect and use data. While not everyone shops with a business on WhatsApp today, we think that more people will choose to do so in the future and it’s important people are aware of these services,” the blog post reads. “This update does not expand our ability to share data with Facebook.”

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Whatsapp

Does WhatsApp’s New Privacy Policy Spell the End for Your Privacy?


On this episode of Orbital, we discuss WhatsApp’s new privacy policy and what it means for your data. Tech lawyer and legal director of SFLC.in (Software Freedom Law Center) Mishi Choudhary joins host Pranay Parab to talk about this. We begin this episode by discussing what the change in WhatsApp’s privacy policy means for you. WhatsApp’s been sharing data with Facebook for a long time, but what has changed now? Also, how is WhatsApp’s earlier data sharing agreement with Facebook different from what it’s offering now? Mishi answers all of these questions in detail.

Then we talk about why you should be really wary of WhatsApp’s privacy policy changes. We mention why you should worry about ad companies collecting huge volumes of information about your daily lives and tell you what you can do to avoid it. Next, we discuss whether this recent outrage over WhatsApp’s privacy policy will translate into a mass exodus or a return to status quo in a few days. This is where we suggest excellent alternatives to WhatsApp, which includes Signal — one of the best privacy focused messaging apps in the world right now. Finally, we talk about what steps you can take to make sure that you don’t get stuck on platforms that are bad for your privacy, and why this is very important.

That’s all for this week’s episode of Orbital, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.

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