In an interview to PTI, WhatsApp head Will Cathcart said the Facebook-owned company remains committed to privacy and security of users across India and will continue to explain to users that their messages are end-to-end encrypted.
"We know we have to compete for users' trust when it comes to privacy and that's very good for the world. People should have choices in how they communicate and feel confident that no one else can see their chats," Cathcart said.
Asked if WhatsApp had seen an exodus of users to rival apps like Signal and Telegram, Cathcart answered in the negative.
"No. We're grateful that people continue to use and trust WhatsApp to communicate...We think competition on privacy is good because it will help make apps even more private and secure in the future,” he added.
Asked if the government has sought clarification on the matter, Cathcart said: "We remain available to answer any questions and to explain our continued commitment to the privacy and security of users across India."
In past years, WhatsApp has drawn flak from the government over misuse of the platform for the spread of misinformation. Since then, the Facebook-owned company has taken a number of steps to curb the spread of hate messages.”
Cathcart also noted that WhatsApp will also continue to “explain” to people and its partners how the platform protects the privacy and security of people's personal messages.
WhatsApp had informed users about the changes in its terms of service and public policy, through an in-app notification last week. Users have till February 8 to agree to the new terms in order to continue using the platform.
This led to a user backlash and triggered memes on the internet over WhatsApp's alleged sharing of user information with Facebook. Many users have also started shifting to rival platforms, and apps like Telegram and Signal have seen millions of downloads globally in the immediate aftermath of the event.
Cathcart argued that “some apps claim to have end-to-end encryption for group chats, and do no such thing”.
He emphasised that WhatsApp's policy update does not affect the privacy of messages with friends or family in any way.
“We're not keeping logs of who everyone in India is texting or calling. We do not share your contacts with Facebook or the other apps Facebook offers....You can download your account information right from WhatsApp to see for yourself the limited data we collect,” he added.
Instead, this update includes changes related to messaging a business on WhatsApp, which is optional, and provides further transparency about how data is collected and used, he said.
"This has become all the more important over the last year with people needing to conduct commerce remotely," Cathcart said, adding that WhatsApp works with Facebook to support millions of micro businesses around India.
Cathcart further stated that the company is building new ways in the near term for people to shop on WhatsApp for businesses to manage and respond to messages.
“When launched, this will be available to all, but it will be people's choice whether or not to choose to do so,” he said.