Govt pro-actively looking for action on WhatsApp privacy rules issue: MeitY official

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The government is “pro-actively” looking at best possible options around WhatsApp new privacy rules, a senior Ministry of Electronics and IT official said on Thursday.

WhatsApp had set May 15 for its users to accept a change in privacy policy but later scrapped the deadline for users to accept the controversial update.

The instant mobile messaging firm has also said that not accepting the terms will not lead to deletion of accounts.

WhatsApp had faced severe backlash over user concerns that data was being shared with parent company Facebook.

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“The ministry is cognisant of this problem. Today, Germany has banned this privacy policy of WhatsApp. The ministry is proactively looking at what we can do about it,” MeitY Special Secretary and Financial Advisor Jyoti Arora said at an Assocham event.

She was responding to concerns raised by a Jharkhand government official on people in rural areas being pushed to accept WhatsApp new privacy rules even though they are not aware of its impact on them.

Arora during the event said the pandemic has pushed usage of digital services across the country and there is a need to have robust cybersecurity infrastructure.

“When you have a digitally fast-growing economy, cyber trust becomes a critical element to ensure that we are able to achieve the intended economic outcome by the use of technology,” Arora said.

She said that in 2020, the country’s cybersecurity watchdog Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-IN) had reported that there were 3 lakh cyber incidents only in the digital banking which is a two-fold increase from 2018.

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She said MeitY has taken multiple initiatives for cybersecurity, including setting up of Cyber Swachhta Kendra” (Botnet Cleaning and Malware Analysis Centre) and sectoral CERTs in the area of finance and power.

“We have an integrated grid and all these grids are connected to all our generation systems whether they are nuclear plants or coal plants. A single major cyber incident can put the country in the darkness.

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“We have to be up to speed to see that all these vulnerabilities are plugged and we are ahead of people who are trying to be in the damage need and, therefore, there is need for cyber experts,” Arora said.

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