The Facebook-owned instant messaging app has once again attracted some unwanted attention from the Indian regulator.
India’s competition watchdog ordered this probe based on its own accord for looking into WhatsApp’s alleged violation regarding abusing its dominant position and entering into agreements that could lead to stifling the competition.
The order, which has been uploaded on CCI’s website, shows that the body has asked its director-general of investigation to complete the probe within the time period of two months.
When enquired about the same, a company spokesperson from WhatsApp replied that they are fully committed to protecting their users’ personal communication and looking forward to engaging with the regulator about the investigation.
The Indian regulator said that the notification WhatsApp sent suggested that its users needed to accept the companies new terms and policy (which included data sharing across major information categories with other Facebook companies) in their entirety to use the platform beyond February 8th.
According to the CCI, this move by Facebook-owned WhatsApp to share its users’ personal data with its parent company’s other arms isn’t transparent and not based on voluntary consent. Thus on those grounds, it appears to be ‘prima facie’ unfair to WhatsApp users.
Furthermore, the CCI also said that the purpose of such data sharing requirements is beyond the legitimate and reasonable expectations of users when it comes to quality, security and other relevant factors attached to the service which WhatsApp provides.
Therefore, the regulator alleges that WhatsApp has breached the provisions attached to Section 4 of the Competition Act, i.e. ‘dealing with abuse of dominance’ via conduct that is deemed exploitative and exclusionary in the form of the policy update it pushed in early January.
The CCI order said that a detailed and thorough probe into the matter will be required to figure out the full scope and impact of data sharing that WhatsApp was trying to make its users agree to involuntarily.
Lastly, the regulator added that the popular instant messaging app wanting to share data with other Facebook products indicates that WhatsApp’s ultimate goal is to build user profiles via cross-linking data collected across services. And that alone is enough to raise competition concerns as it will undeniably provide the company with a huge competitive advantage.
However, now that the Indian competition watchdog is all set to investigate the same, it looks like WhatsApp might just have to end up extending the date indefinitely. We will keep you updated on all future developments. Until then, stay tuned.