Social media platform WhatsApp on Wednesday said that its proposed privacy policy was not meant to enhance data sharing but to provide options for business expansion, reported PTI. This came a day after India asked the platform to withdraw the new privacy policy, saying the company’s new rules were discriminatory towards users in the country.

“We wish to reinforce that this update does not expand our ability to share data with Facebook,” a WhatsApp spokesperson said. “Our aim is to provide transparency and new options available to engage with businesses so they can serve their customers and grow.”

The social media platform’s official said personal messages will always be protected with end-to-end encryption so that neither Facebook or WhatsApp can see them. “Our aim is to provide transparency and new options available to engage with businesses so they can serve their customers and grow,” the spokesperson said, according to NDTV. “We are working to address misinformation and remain available to answer any questions.”

The information and technology ministry had on Tuesday flagged “grave concerns” about the “choice and autonomy of Indian citizens”. The Centre had sent a list of 14 questions to WhatsApp, asking the company to disclose the exact categories of data that it collects from users in India, the permissions and user consent sought by the app, and how each of these would be used.

The ministry opposed to the “all-or-nothing approach of WhatsApp” that forces users to accept the new service terms and privacy policies, without giving an option to the users to opt-out of this proposed change of integrating user data with other Facebook companies. The government also sought an explanation from WhatsApp as to why the company brought about “such significant changes”, when the Indian Parliament was already considering the Personal Data Protection Bill.

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The WhatsApp controversy

On January 16, WhatsApp had announced that it would delay the planned privacy update, as the messaging service found itself in the throes of widespread backlash about the safety of user data. The messaging platform said it would push back the changes to May 15 from February 8, and would “do lot more to clear up the misinformation” about the app.

While concerns about data privacy with respect to WhatsApp are not new, its changes to the privacy policy, released on January 4, sparked a mass exodus towards other messenger platforms like Signal and Telegram. Questions were raised about how the company was forcing users to agree to share their information with Facebook if they want to keep using the service.

The policy made it clear that WhatsApp collects expansive meta data from users’ phones, including internet protocol addresses and phone number area codes to estimate users’ geographical location. More significantly, the privacy policy confirms that WhatsApp will allow Facebook access to messages that users share with businesses on the messenger app, which will enable Facebook to further influence user behaviour through targeted advertising.

WhatsApp had issued two clarifications to assuage privacy concerns of users. On January 10, the messaging platform said that its latest update describes business communication and does not change its data-sharing practices with Facebook. Later on January 15, it said that the new policy does not affect the privacy of users’ messages with their friends and family.