RBI Withholds WhatsApp Pay in India Citing Non-Compliance of Data Laws

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Following dire predictions from ‘experts’ and persistent skepticism from politicians, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has told the Supreme Court that WhatsApp doesn’t have its permission to start its proposed payments service in the country. According to the RBI, the Facebook-owned platform is still non-compliant with India’s data localization laws, which is why it has directed the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) to prevent the company from launching its UPI payments service.

According to The Times of India, the RBI filed its submission to the Supreme Court on November 6th, while the aforementioned letter to the NPCI MD & CEO was send November 1. “The RBI has examined the said reports (by NPCI) and the responses of NPCI and is of the considered view that WhatsApp is storing the following payment data elements outside India beyond the permitted timelines indicated in the circular and frequently asked questions (FAQs) on storage of payments system data issued by RBI on June 26, 2019”, said the banking regulator.

The development comes in the wake of a recent admission from the company that an Israeli cyber-surveillance company called the NSO Group had exploited a WhatsApp vulnerability to carry out a series of cyber-attacks against around 1,400 journalists, human rights activists, political dissidents and diplomats from 20 countries. According to WhatsApp, the Israeli firm used a state-of-the-art spyware, called Pegasus, to carry out the attack that also reportedly affected many activists in India.

It’s not immediately clear how WhatsApp will respond to the latest development, which deals a massive blow to its aspirations of launching a UPI-based payments service in the country that could compete with the likes of Paytm, PhonePe and Google Pay.

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