WhatsApp’s UPI-based WhatsApp Payments has so far been available to only a limited set of users in India, and its wider rollout has been delayed due to reasons such as opposition from rivals, ambiguous language about data sharing with Facebook, lawmakers and Facebook’s own troubles with data scandals. Insider sources have now revealed that WhatsApp feels its payments service is being singled out by the government, while its rivals are enjoying an unfair advantage.
Due to the hurdles in the wider rollout in India, the company is now exploring the option of releasing the payments feature in other countries, a source told Economic Times on conditions of anonymity.
The government’s demand is that WhatsApp store all the payments data on servers located in India, and if WhatsApp fails to comply with it, the wider roll-out of its payments service won’t be feasible. One of the key concerns here is WhatsApp’s data sharing infrastructure with Facebook. The company has claimed that it is using Facebook infrastructure to facilitate payments, which has raised concerns regarding the safety of user data, especially in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
The same point was mentioned in a letter sent by the IT ministry to the the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI). WhatsApp is reportedly willing to store data in India as well as servers located in other countries, but the government’s demand of hosting the same exclusively in India is still under consideration.
The source added that WhatsApp’s regulatory compliance is same as that of Google, but the payments service of its parent company as well as rivals are getting a preferential treatment by the government over data storage policies. As per the source, complete localization of user data will mean ‘redesigning for India only, and that will slow down innovation for India’.
Another source added that the obstruction in WhatsApp Payments’ wider roll-out can not be seperated from the company’s recent tiff with the government over the spread of fake news via the messaging platform. Moroever, Facebook has rejected the IT ministry’s demand to create a feature that would break end-to-end encryption and allow officials to trace the source of fake news and incendiary content. These new developments might also play a role in further delaying the wider roll-out of WhatsApp Payments in India.