WhatsApp recently started the trial of its payments service in India. The service, WhatsApp Payments, is aimed at making peer-to-peer money transfers easier and also aid in the digital payments initiative the government is running. However, the company has said that it may share customers’ payments data with parent Facebook, which is already under global criticism over mishandling user data.
“To provide Payments to you, we share information with third-party services including PSPs, such as your mobile phone number, registration information, device identifiers, VPAs (virtual payments addresses), the sender’s UPI PIN, and payment amount,” the policy further adds.
Now, this is likely to create a furor in the country which is already critical of Facebook’s indirect role in influencing the US elections. At a time when India is moving towards a digitally-driven economy, this disclosure is likely to ruffle many feathers across lawmakers and privacy advocates. It is also concerning given how most Indians now have their financial details linked with Aadhaar, which is then linked with other critical services.
However, as Livemint reports, it is required for third-party payments apps such as WhatsApp to get exclusive permission from NPCI – the body that oversees the United Payments Interface (UPI) platform – before they share customer data. As per the circular by the NPCI, “PSP bank shall ensure that third-party app provider shall require an exclusive permission from NPCI & PSP bank for sharing individual UPI transaction data with any other third party including its own parent, subsidiaries and subsidiaries of parents other than entities such as Indian government/Indian intelligence/Indian law enforcement agencies/Indian regulatory bodies”.
It is worth mentioning that not only WhatsApp, but its rivals Paytm and Flipkart-owned PhonePe also have privacy policies which mention that they may share user data related to payments. WhatsApp’s policies coming to light now particularly holds interest as the world is awaiting some closure on the mega breach of trust where data on about 87 million Facebook users was unethically accessed by a data firm on the pretext of academic research. In India alone, 5.62 lakh people are potentially affected by the breach.
Watch: WhatsApp features in 2017
As for the WhatsApp payments, the service is currently available on trial for some users. It is expected to be rolled out to the masses soon. It remains to be seen if Facebook issues new guidelines on the data use similar to how it introduced for its social networking portal.
This comes after WhatsApp refuted reports that the user data is not secure. The company said that it collects very little data and every message is end-to-end encrypted. WhatsApp was responding to concerns by experts that the popular instant messaging service with over 200-million active users in India might not be as secure as being claimed.