ISLAMABAD: As cybersecurity is a major concern, Science and Technology Minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussein said his ministry was considering introducing a strong data protection law to protect citizens’ privacy.
The new terms of service, which are due to take effect in a month, on February 8, come with the condition that if users refuse to share data with Facebook, they will have to leave WhatsApp.
“And it is particularly worrying that these new conditions do not apply to subscribers in the United States, Britain and Europe,”
Mr Hussain said cybersecurity was a key concern and his ministry was taking initiatives to protect subscribers’ personal data.
He argues that instead of adopting a “one-sided” approach, such policy changes should have been made after wider consultations.
“WhatsApp may have claimed that it would allow other sister organizations such as Facebook to have access to information from certain users for advertising purposes. But once the encryption is removed, WhatsApp’s sister companies will have access to any subscriber information, “the minister explained.
According to a senior official of the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA), users are likely to see ads in the future, as they do while watching videos on YouTube and other social media platforms.
However, he said it was too early for the PTA to respond, which still assesses the new policy and how it will affect consumers.
According to the official, most of the information that WhatsApp will allow other organizations to access is “sensitive data and thus alarming”.
While responding to widespread criticism from IT experts that their privacy and personal information will be compromised, WhatsApp maintains that personal chats will remain encrypted from end to end and no third party will be able to read them. It says the update did not change WhatsApp’s data-sharing practices with Facebook and did not affect how people communicate in private with friends or family.
Internet activist Nighat Tato, who runs the nonprofit Digital Rights Foundation, shared the federal minister’s concerns. “It is worrying that the new conditions will not apply to EU countries,” she said.
“Facebook already has access to much of our personal information, but that’s good because it was an informed decision. But what about everyone in the world who doesn’t use Facebook and only WhatsApp for privacy reasons or for some reason. It makes us wonder why WhatsApp needs information like our phone model, our local phone numbers and our location to mention some basic data that they will now want under the new conditions, ”she said.
She also fears that in the future Pakistan will come up with its own consumer data protection laws, which could be what she called as draconian as the Pakistan Electronic Crime Act (PECA), which compromises users’ personal data. .
Published in Dawn, January 11, 2021