In an interview with PTI, WhatsApp Global Head Will Cathcart said the company, owned by Facebook, remains committed to the privacy and security of users across India and will continue to explain to users that their messages are encrypted throughout.
“We know we have to compete for user trust on privacy, and that’s very good for the world. People should be able to choose how they communicate and feel safe that no one else can see their chats, ”said Cathcart.
When asked if WhatsApp saw an exodus of users to rival apps like Signal and Telegram, Cathcart replied negatively.
“No. We are grateful that people continue to use WhatsApp for communication and trust it. We believe that the competition for data protection is good because it will help make apps even more private and secure in the future, he added.
The comments are against the backdrop of a heated debate over WhatsApp’s controversial update on service and privacy in relation to the processing of user data and working with Facebook to offer integrations for the social media giant’s products.
When asked if the government has asked for clarification on the matter, Cathcart said, “We remain available to answer any questions and to explain our continued commitment to the privacy and safety of users across India.”
In the past few years, WhatsApp has received an anti-aircraft gun from the government for misusing the platform to spread misinformation. Since then, the Facebook company has taken a number of steps to curb the spread of hate speech.
Cathcart also noted that WhatsApp will continue to explain to people and their partners how the platform protects the privacy and security of people’s personal messages.
This caused a backlash from users and triggered memes on the internet because WhatsApp allegedly shared user information with Facebook. Many users have also started moving to competing platforms, and apps like Telegram and Signal saw millions of downloads worldwide in the immediate aftermath of the event.
Messaging service Telegram has surpassed 500 million subscribers worldwide in the last few days and added 25 million new users. Although no India-specific user numbers were given, 38 percent of new users are from Asia, according to Telegram.
Similarly, Signal had said the Indian market had “completely exceeded expectations” and the growth in recent days has led the company to add capacity to meet growing demand.
However, Cathcart argued that some apps claim and don’t have end-to-end encryption for group chats.
He stresses that WhatsApp’s policy update does not affect the privacy of messages with friends or family in any way.
“We do not keep logs of who texts or calls in India. We do not share your contacts with Facebook or the other apps that Facebook offers. You can download your account information directly from WhatsApp to see for yourself the limited data we collect, ”he added.
Instead, this update includes changes to how messages are sent to a business on WhatsApp, which is optional, and provides more transparency into how data is collected and used, he said.
“This has become most important in the last year as people have to trade remotely,” said Cathcart, adding that WhatsApp is working with Facebook to help millions of micro-businesses across India.
Cathcart went on to say the company will develop new ways to shop on WhatsApp in the near future so that companies can manage and respond to messages. “Once launched, this will be available to everyone, but it will be people’s choice whether they choose to do it or not,” he said.