Unless stopped, WhatsApp could share users’ personal information with third parties
paid $22 billion (Rs.1,472.79 crore) – or, almost 2.5 times Facebook’s 2013 gross revenues – to buy WhatsApp, a company with net loss of over $138 million at the time. Why? One obvious reason, of course, was to stave off potential competition and start its way towards becoming a social media conglomerate.
Less talked about, however, is how the acquisition would allow Facebook access to WhatsApp’s user base and user data –accounts for over 1 billion users who make over 500 million phone calls, share 700 million photos, 100 million videos and 1 billion messages a day.
India, with over 160 million active users, is WhatsApp’s biggest market and conceivably contributed significantly to the above valuation.
WhatsApp will become the owner of the photos, texts and information that Indians exchange on the app, and if it decides, WhatsApp may share the personal information of its Indian users with Facebook, third parties or scamsters, unless Chief Justice J.S. Khehar intervenes this May.
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Other countries have taken initiatives to prevent the sharing of data. In the European Union, data regulators have already warned WhatsApp about sharing the data of European citizens with Facebook, with the social network firm agreeing last November to temporarily halt data sharing.
India in contrast has made no move to prevent Facebook and WhatsApp from merging their user information databases. Indeed, Chief Justice Khehar and Justice Chandrachud nearly declined to admit a public interest litigation on this matter in January. The court pointed out users can opt-out and expressed doubts on whether users can claim a right to privacy or free speech in a “free” communication program, but agreed the summer bench will take up the matter in May()