Amid govt concerns, WhatsApp says it shares limited payments data with Facebook

Amid govt concerns, WhatsApp says it shares limited payments data with Facebook
11 Jun, 2018

Instant messaging platform WhatsApp, which has been forced to defer the rollout of its payments feature in India following privacy concerns in connection with parent Facebook as well as data storage considerations, has said that it shares limited data with the social networking giant. 

“Facebook does not use WhatsApp payment information for commercial purposes, it simply helps pass the necessary payment information to the bank partner and NPCI [National Payments Corporation of India],” reads a statement on the FAQ section of WhatsApp’s website.

“In some cases, we may share limited data to help provide customer support to you or keep payments safe and secure," it added.

WhatsApp has been running pilots since February for its payments service, which is based on the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) system operated by NPCI. 

The Union IT ministry had sent two letters to the NPCI seeking detailed explanations about how the popular messaging app was planning to store payments data and what it plans to share with Facebook. 

WhatsApp has now explained that when a payment is made, it uses Facebook infrastructure to link the sender and the receiver.

The transaction information is then passed on to a bank partner and to NPCI, the country’s umbrella body for digital payments, to facilitate the transfer.

"Facebook processes UPI (Unified Payments Interface) transaction data as a service provider for WhatsApp," a WhatsApp spokesperson told news agency Press Trust of India.

WhatsApp, which has a huge user base in India of more than 200 million, has also clarified that it does not store any financial instrument data such as debit card details.  

PTI cited a WhatsApp spokesperson  saying that the beta testing of WhatsApp payments in the country has been positive and the company was working with banks to roll it out to all its users.

The service was expected to be formally launched earlier this month but has been delayed over privacy concerns involving Facebook.

Facebook is trying to mend its damaged reputation following the data scandal involving political consultancy Cambridge Analytica that saw information regarding 87 million users leaked without consent.

Separately, the IT ministry recently sought an explanation from Facebook about data privacy after The New York Times recently reported that the company had a data sharing arrangement with 60 device makers such as Apple, Samsung, Amazon and Blackberry as well as Chinese manufacturers like Huawei and Oppo.