A WhatsApp spokesperson said that no accounts will be deleted on May 15 for not accepting the policy update.

A phone screen with WhatsApp logo on it. WhatsApp scrapped May 15 deadline for accepting privacy policy terms
Atom Privacy Friday, May 07, 2021 - 17:59

WhatsApp has scrapped its May 15 deadline for users to accept its controversial privacy policy update and said not accepting the terms will not lead to deletion of accounts. A WhatsApp spokesperson said that no accounts will be deleted on May 15 for not accepting the policy update.

"We’ve spent the last few months working to clear up confusion and misinformation. As a reminder this update does not impact the privacy of personal messages for anyone. Our goal is to provide information about new options we are building that people will have, to message a business on WhatsApp, in the future," a WhatsApp spokesperson said.

"While the majority of users who have received the new terms of service have accepted them, we appreciate some people haven’t had the chance to do so yet.  No accounts will be deleted on May 15 because of this update and no one in India will lose functionality of WhatsApp either. We will follow up with reminders to people over the next several weeks. We’re grateful for the important role WhatsApp plays in people’s lives and we’ll take every opportunity to explain how we protect people’s personal messages and private information," the spokesperson added.

The reason behind this decision is not known yet and the company did not divulge the number of users who have accepted the terms so far. WhatsApp had faced severe backlash over user concerns that data was being shared with parent company Facebook.

The changes to the terms of service and privacy policy about what information would be collected, how businesses can use Facebook hosted services to store and manage their WhatsApp chats; and how WhatsApp partners with Facebook to offer integrations across the company products.

While the changes originally had a deadline of February 8, this was pushed to May 15 due to the backlash — but had said that anyone who doesn’t accept the changes would not be allowed to use the service. 

WhatsApp insisted that the acceptance of the privacy policy update does not expand its ability to share user data with Facebook. It also took out full page ads in newspapers and published blogposts to affirm the same. 

This comes as the Delhi High Court is hearing challenges to the changes. In addition, in January, the Competition Commission of India decided suo motu to look into WhatsApp's new privacy policy on the basis of news reports regarding the same, and ordered a probe. This too has been challenged in the court. 

India is the biggest market for WhatsApp, and the platform -- as per government data -- has 53 crore users in the country. India remains a critical market for Internet companies like Facebook with its large population base and burgeoning Internet adoption.

WhatsApp, in the past, has said it is open to answering any questions from the government on the privacy issue and that it will continue to explain to users that their messages are end-to-end encrypted.

With inputs from PTI

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