work-from-home

Tech majors extend work-from-home to keep pandemic at bay

by | Aug 24, 2020 | Analysis, Productivity, UC & C

Salesforce has joined a growing list of tech majors who have announced extended work-from-home policies for their employees.
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Cloud software major Salesforce has joined the list of companies who’ve extended their work-from-home policies. Salesforce has announced an extension until July 31, 2021. Top technology companies such as Google and Facebook have already extended their work-from-home policies for employees till mid-2021. Other tech majors, such as Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft, have announced remote working until January 2021.

“Over the past few months, we have been working diligently to support our employees as they navigate this difficult time. The safety of our employees and communities remains paramount. And while we continue to work on plans to re-open our offices safely, the timing of when we bring employees back will be unique to each office — and we will continue to make those decisions in a way that’s consistent with local government guidelines and the advice of our medical experts and local leadership team,” said Brent Hyder, Chief People Officer of Salesforce in the company’s blog.

The San Francisco headquartered tech-major has also announced to give an additional $250 financial support to each of its employees for buying office supplies. The company had provided similar assistance to its employees earlier this year as well. Earlier this month, consulting major EY had also announced similar financial support of US$200 to each of its employees.

Besides, Salesforce employees who are parents will be entitled to take six additional weeks of paid leave. “In all situations where schools have been closed, and students are learning remotely, parents and guardians will be allowed to work from home, even if that date extends beyond our offices re-opening,” Hyder added.

The last six months have been challenging for a majority of companies and leaders. The uncertainty brought in by the COVID-19 pandemic has made it extremely hard for both employees and employers to focus on work solely. People are dealing with issues such as social distancing, remote working, job-loss, elderly care, and ambiguity around almost everything.

As such, enterprises are finding several ways to motivate their talent and prevent burnout. Financial assistance, work-flexibility, and paid leave are some of the measures that companies are offering to support and attract employees.

The new normal is here to stay

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the majority of the companies would offer work-from-home to a very particular set of people on a rotational basis. At that time, In India, the remote-working model was mostly viewed as pointless, with much suspicion from employers. Companies were reluctant to experiment, and employees too were not attuned to an entirely virtual work-environment. However, things changed in a short time. The pandemic has suddenly pushed people to transform their behaviors and compelled them to adopt the new normal quickly.

See also Work-from-home even after Covid-19?

Most of the enterprises and employees have successfully navigated this transition and are looking forward to remote ways of working even after the pandemic subsides. For employers, the new normal is a significant opportunity to save substantial real-estate costs and translate the cost benefits to their employees. For employees, it’s a way to be more productive by reducing travel time while staying connected with their families.

According to a recent study, Technology and the Evolving World of Work by Lenovo, the majority of those surveyed (72 percent) confirmed a shift in their daily work dynamic in the last three months. Employees feel more connected and more productive than ever before as they work from home, but the data shows financial, physical, and emotional downsides for the global workforce.

There is no doubt that the experience of the physical work environment is vital to develop strong teaming and diverse skillsets and hence cannot be completely evaded. To balance that, companies could be mulling to rotate days or weeks of in-office presence for their employees in future, especially in the services sectors.

MORE FROM BETTER WORLD

TBZ CTO Dr. Pooran Jaiswal exits

TBZ CTO Dr. Pooran Jaiswal exits

Dr. Pooran Jaiswal

Dr. Pooran Jaiswal.

Dr. Pooran Jaiswal, Chief Technology Officer of Tribhovandas Bhimji Zaveri (TBZ) Limited, a leading jewelry brand, has quit the company. Dr. Jaiswal joined TBZ in 2018 and led IT budgeting and planning, technology improvement, and automation efforts at the jewelry retail chain.

TBZ has a presence in more than 29 Indian cities and is among the largest and oldest jewelers in the country.

Under Dr. Pooran Jaiswal’s leadership, TBZ, the 156-year-old jewelry major, enhanced several vital processes and improved customer experience by transforming its overall IT infrastructure and implementing robotic process transformation (RPT). He was instrumental in deploying Oracle’s Autonomous Database at TBZ, one of the first of its kind for any jewelry maker in Asia.

During his tenure at TBZ, Jaiswal also created a strong cloud strategy, moving the company’s workload-heavy processes to cloud-based infrastructure.

Jaiswal had also led several innovations such as testing and embedding small internet of things (IoT) devices in the premium jewelry category to analyze whether the jewelry had been tried, sold, or unsold.

Before joining TBZ, Dr. Jaiswal was CTO at Globus. With over 20 years of extensive experience in the IT industry, Jaiswal had earlier worked with Rediff and NIIT. It is not known yet if Jaiswal has accepted any new role, but if the industry buzz is to be believed, he is close to finalizing his next move.

About Tribhovandas Bhimji Zaveri (TBZ)

Located in Mumbai, Maharashtra, India, TBZ is part of the organized jewelry markets with a strong legacy of 156 years. Today, the company’s operations spread across 26 cities and 11 Indian states, covering a total retail space of 110,666 sq. ft.

Historically, TBZ was the country’s first jeweler to offer buy-back guarantees for jewelry purchased through their stores in 1938. The company primarily sells gold jewelry and diamond-studded jewelry through its 37 showrooms, including five franchise-operated stores.

For other recent C-Track movements, click here.

Jeff Bezos passes on the Amazon baton to Andy Jassy

Jeff Bezos passes on the Amazon baton to Andy Jassy

Jatinder SinghNot many were entirely surprised to hear about Amazon’s Jeff Bezos stepping down from the CEO role in the third quarter of 2021. While this may be the most significant leadership movement so far in 2021, industry onlookers had already started to bet on how long Jeff will continue at the helm of Amazon!

And why not? The technology industry has seen successful transitions at Apple, Microsoft, and Alphabet, companies who have achieved even greater heights after their founder CEOs paved the way for fresh leadership.

The change, however, is an important event for Amazon’s stakeholders and employees who will be looking for a new chapter of growth under the leadership of Andy Jassy, who will succeed Jeff. Andy is currently heading Amazon Web Services (AWS), the company’s cloud computing division.

Jeff Bezos will shoulder the Executive Chair’s role, a strategic advisor to the CEO, and focus on new products and early initiatives being developed by Amazon. Bill Gates at Microsoft, Bob Iger at Disney, and Eric Schmidt assumed similar roles after stepping down as CEOs from their respective companies.

Fresh leadership perspective

Jeff Bezos, 57, founded Amazon in a garage in 1994 and made it one of the giant multinational technology behemoths through his sheer grit and visionary leadership. Over the years, the company has expanded its orbit from just being the e-commerce player to music and video streaming, providing cloud computing services, robotics, artificial intelligence, and more. However, it looks like Jeff is now convinced to pass the baton to a new leader who can bring fresh perspective and innovations to take the growth ahead.

In his own words, despite the remarkable success Amazon had achieved, Jeff had admitted in 2018 that the company is far from invincible and might fail one day. “If you look at large companies, their lifespans tend to be 30-plus years, not hundred-plus years,” Jeff had reportedly said.

Jeff Bezos knows that one needs to keep on reinventing to achieve continuous success. By handing over the baton to a new but proven leader, Amazon perhaps wants to add more oomph and shelve the qualms, if any.

Growing focus on cloud

Andy Jassy’s elevation also reflects Amazon’s upping the value chain by leveraging cloud and artificial intelligence, to diversify and grow.

The last few quarters saw a tremendous boom in Amazon’s e-commerce and grocery business, mainly due to the pandemic induced lockdowns and stay at home advisories. But, there are many challenges that the company might need to tackle to achieve profits from its e-commerce business. There is growing competition, supply chain modernization tests, and continuous pressure from retailers to reduce margins. Most of the profit that Amazon earns today comes from AWS. (See: AWS pumps $2.77 bn in India to retain cloud supremacy)

Amazon’s cloud business is the company’s cash cow division and achieving stellar heights. Currently, AWS contributes over 50% of Amazon’s operating income. AWS has clocked $12.7 billion in revenue, up from $9.95 billion a year earlier. In the wake of the growing distributed workforce environment, enterprises are quickly embracing cloud computing services to upsurge agility, deliver innovations, and modernize their infrastructure.

Clearly, Jeff Bezos and Amazon are betting big on the data and computing power in the new decade and aims to pull new rabbits out of the hat for accomplishing greater heights.

 

India’s Union Budget is a plus for DX, gig economy

India’s Union Budget is a plus for DX, gig economy

India has announced its 2021-22 Union Budget on 1 February 2021 amidst the COVID-19 outbreak. This year’s budget stands out in several announcements that accelerate the country’s digital transformation efforts in the gig economy. The tech industry seems to be enthralled with these announcements and terming them as a massive boost for the country’s self-reliant objectives.

At Better World, we’ve captured the budget’s key points that are likely to support the tech and digital community.

Firming the start-up culture by reducing compliance on OPC

This year’s budget provides Rs 15,700 crores to the MSME sector. One of the significant highlights is the decision to incentivize One Person Companies (OPCs) by permitting OPCs, to grow without any paid-up capital and turnover thresholds. The residency limit for an Indian citizen who plans to set up an OPC has been minimized to 120 days from 182 days, and now Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) can also incorporate OPCs.

NRIs were previously not allowed to set up OPCs. However, with the new provision, any Indian citizen, whether resident in India or otherwise, can form an OPC. The country currently has about 30,000 OPCs in operation. This move is expected to give a much-needed boost for many OPCs and likely help new tech startups to emerge, helping to transform the economy.

The government also extended the eligibility for start-ups to claiming tax holiday and capital gains exemption for investment by another year – till 31 March 2022.

Social security for gig economy workers

The government has announced its plans to unveil a website to collect appropriate information on the country’s gig-workers and migrant workers so that it can implement robust social security schemes for them. Including gig-workers and freelancers in the government’s social security plan is highly crucial as the gig-economy size is expected to grow at a considerable level in the next five years, touching about $500 billion market size. 

The concept of the distributed workforce has evolved from just an experimentation phase and most of the companies who are pacing their digital transformation efforts are at much ease to onboard contractual employees from anywhere in the world.

Gig-economy offers advantages such as flexibility to employees, especially in the areas of HR, IT, and creative to work as per their convenience by leveraging the latest technology tools. The mushrooming parallel economy, however, has been facing a lot of struggle to attract talented young people since it doesn’t offer any kind of social protection such as retirement benefits, leave benefits or minimum wages to date.

Indian government’s planned reforms would be of particular importance as they will enable the government to develop more structured health, wellness, and insurance policies for the country’s growing independent workers and freelancers. 

Greater focus on research and development

The government has set aside Rs 50,000 crores in Budget 2021 for the National Research Fund (NRF), spreading across the next five years. The outlay will promote a culture of innovation, digital transformation, research, and growth in a coordinated way. It will also be used to build research capabilities at major universities and colleges. “In my July 2019 budget speech, I had announced the NRF. We have now worked out the modalities, and the NRF outlay will be Rs. Fifty thousand crores over five years. It will ensure that the overall 24 research ecosystem of the country is strengthened with a focus on identified national-priority thrust areas,” Nirmala Sitharaman, India’s Finance Minister revealed during the budget presentation. (See: Ravindra Kumar, President, IIT Delhi Alumni Association)

Proposal for world-class fintech hub at GIFT City

Another big announcement that has pleased the technology sector observers is the government’s announcement to set-up a premier fintech hub in planned Gujarat International Finance Tec (GIFT) city. Located on the bank of the river Sabarmati, the GIFT City is the government’s ambitious Special Economic Zone (SEZ) project, encompassing over 886 acres of land in Gujarat and includes commercial spaces, residential apartments, schools, hospitals, hotels, clubs, retail, and various recreational facilities. “This is a great step and demonstrates the government’s recognition of FinTech as a significant play in the financial sector. This should pave the road for the creation of the required regulations and frameworks for FinTech to work with conventional lenders and banks,” said Lalit Mehta, Co-founder & CEO of Decimal Technologies.

Digitization of railways

In another significant announcement to propel digital transformation in the country’s economic milieu, Rs 1.15 lakh crores have been earmarked for railways. A substantial proportion of these funds will be utilized for creating future-ready railway systems by the year 2030, ensuring robust connectivity and the use of technology to make rail transport safer and better.

This declaration is likely to give railways an excellent opportunity to test and implement emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), automation and machine learning (ML) to control operations and manage the Indian railway’s infrastructure more efficiently.

“The safety measures undertaken in the past few years have borne results. To further strengthen this effort, high-density network and highly utilized network routes of Indian railways will be provided with an indigenously developed automatic train protection system that eliminates train collision due to human error,” Nirmala Sitharaman, the Finance Minister, stated in her budget speech.

In addition to the above, announcements such as the government’s plan to hold a full-digitized national census in 2021, the launch of digital voter cards, and enhanced video conferencing capabilities for speedy judicial hearings reflect the government’s increased focus on digitizing the economy and developing the necessary infrastructure for new-age technologies and services.

 Quotes

“The focus on innovation and R&D as an important pillar is a critical step in increasing the Indian IT sector’s export income. Along with this, the ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ budget also outlines initiatives for the gig economy, digital payments, human capital while also setting up fintech hub and National Natural Language Translation Missions. Therefore, with increased allocation towards infrastructure, financial inclusion, and healthcare, Budget 2021 promises to provide the much-needed economic velocity to India’s growth cycle,” – CP Gurnani, MD & CEO, Tech Mahindra

“Coming out of the pandemic year, the Finance Minister has laid down a well-rounded Budget. Focus on setting up of Fintech Hub at Gift City, enhancing digital payments, and using AI in governance – all provide a strong platform for Digital India. Allocating Rs 50,000 crore towards National Research Foundation will boost India’s Innovation Quotient on the global map and is a welcome move. Allocation of funds as incentives for promoting digital payments is also a step in the right direction and a significant step in ease of doing business. Lastly, increase in allocation for highways and railways will lead to employment generation and boost the economic growth of the nation,” – Karthikeyan Natarajan, President, and Chief Operating Officer, Cyient

“The budget is a major step in the right direction. It outlays a strong focus on infrastructure, healthcare, capital spending, disinvestment, monetization, job creation and digitization. These measures are not only progressive and recovery-led, if implemented correctly would ease the burden on the economy and lead India towards the projected V-shaped growth and development,” – Rajiv Bhalla, MD, Barco India

“This budget announcement confirms the government’s focus on developing infrastructure and skills, which will have short and long-term benefits to the Indian economy & people. Steps like international collaboration to develop new skills will help Indian youth prepare for modern job requirements and make them global-ready. The National Digital Educational Architecture (NDEAR) announcement is a welcome step, which will help build a Digital First mindset in the entire education system in India and help students and educators adopt new ways of learning and teaching. Besides, we welcome the doubled allocation for the MSME sector, which will incentivize our small businesses’ digital transformation that is the backbone of our economy,” – Ketan Patel, Managing Director – HP India Market.

User study on WhatsApp new privacy policy

User study on WhatsApp new privacy policy

Better World logo

यूज़र्स चाहते हैं कि सरकार Whatsapp प्राइवेसी पॉलिसी में हस्तक्षेप करे।

Whatsapp प्राइवेसी पॉलिसी सर्वे रिपोर्ट

विश्लेषण: दीपक कुमार

हाल ही में Whatsapp प्राइवेसी पॉलिसी में बदलाव प्रस्तावित किये गए हैं, जिसपर चर्चा काफी गर्म है । इंटरनेट कंपनियों द्वारा यूजर डेटा की गोपनीयता का सम्मान करने और न करने के बीच एक पतली रेखा है। आज के डिजिटल युग में यह रेखा और भी पतली हो गई है। बड़ी इंटरनेट कंपनियों के लिए, यूजर डेटा एक सोने की खान जैसा है।

व्हाट्सएप यूजर डेटा को फेसबुक तथा अन्य बिज़नेस पार्टनर्स के साथ साझा करने का अधिकार प्राप्त करना चाहता है। इससे पेरेंट कंपनी फेसबुक डिजिटल विज्ञापन की दुनिया में एक सशक्त बढ़त हासिल कर सकती है। यह सर्वविदित है कि व्हाट्सएप डेटा फेसबुक के विज्ञापन बिज़नेस को काफी लाभ पहुंचा सकता है।

 
इस बात से उपयोगकर्ता खुश नहीं हैं। हाल ही में संपन्न एक Better World सर्वेक्षण के जवाब में, उनमें से अधिकांश (67%) चाहते हैं कि सरकार किसी न किसी रूप में इस मामले में हस्तक्षेप करे, जैसा कि इस रिपोर्ट में आगे चर्चा की गई है। विशेष रूप से, इनमें व्यावसायिक व्हाट्सएप उपयोगकर्ता भी शामिल हैं। इस रिपोर्ट के लिखे जाने के समय तक, मीडिया सूत्रों के अनुसार सरकार ने व्हाट्सएप को अपनी प्रस्तावित गोपनीयता-नीति में बदलाव को वापस लेने के लिए कहा है।
 
यह सब तब शुरू हुआ जब व्हाट्सएप ने अपने उपयोगकर्ताओं को सूचित किया कि उसने अपनी गोपनीयता नीति को अपडेट कर दिया है और उपयोगकर्ता नई नीति को स्वीकार कर सकते हैं या 8 फरवरी 2021 तक व्हाट्सएप का उपयोग करना छोड़ सकते हैं। बाद में इस समय सीमा को बढ़ा कर 15 मई कर दिया गया।
 
WhatsApp की गोपनीयता-नीति में बदलाव और उसके बाद
 

उपयोगकर्ताओं का बड़े पैमाने पर विरोध साफ़ दीखता है। लाखों उपयोगकर्ताओं ने इस कदम के खिलाफ अपने विरोध को पोस्ट और ट्वीट किया और यहां तक कि सिग्नल और टेलीग्राम जैसे वैकल्पिक मैसेजिंग ऐप्स को ज्वाइन भी किया। टेस्ला कंपनी के संस्थापक एलोन मस्क के ट्वीट, “सिग्नल का उपयोग करें”, ने व्हाट्सएप छोड़ने की एक मुहिम सी चलाने में मदद की।  ट्विटर पर उनके 41.5 मिलियन फॉलोवर्स होने का भी इस मामले में काफी प्रभाव पड़ा।

शुरु में तो व्हाट्सएप छोड़ने की होड़ इतनी ज्यादा थी कि सिग्नल के सर्वर नए साइनअप का भार उठाने में सक्षम नहीं थे। एक समय सिग्नल ने ट्वीट करके सफाई तक दी कि एक साथ कई नए लोगों के साइन करने के कारण सर्वर आवश्कतानुसार काम नहीं कर पा रहे हैं, अतः लोग थोड़ा धैर्य रखें।

11 जनवरी 2021 को, फेसबुक के शेयरों में 4.01% की गिरावट आई जबकि Nasdaq index सिर्फ 1.55% गिरा । 12 जनवरी को फेसबुक 2.24% गिरा जबकि  Nasdaq 0.77% बढ़ा। 14 जनवरी को, यह छह महीने से अधिक समय में सबसे कम पर हुआ।

Better World द्वारा किए गए  सर्वे में जहां 37% उपयोगकर्ताओं ने कहा कि वे whatsapp के इस कदम को अपनी गोपनीयता का गंभीर उल्लंघन मानते हैं, 45% ने कहा कि यह अच्छा नहीं पर वे इसे मान लेंगे । केवल 18% ने कहा कि whatsapp की प्रस्तावित गोपनीयता नीति में परिवर्तन से उन्हें बिल्कुल परेशानी  नहीं है। हालांकि, इन 18% उपयोगकर्ताओं में से कुछ पहले से ही व्हाट्सएप के साथ अन्य मैसेजिंग ऐप का उपयोग कर रहे थे।

आइये इन ग्राफों के जरिये देखें कि whatsapp users ने सर्वे के माध्यम से क्या मत रखे हैं।
(To read this report in English, please click here.)
WhatsApp privacy policy-Graph1
WhatsApp privacy policy-Graph1
WhatsApp privacy policy-Graph1
WhatsApp privacy policy-Graph4
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WhatsApp privacy policy-Graph6
FeaturesWhatsAppTelegramSignal
Subscribers (Global)2 billion400 million20 million
Cross platformYesYesYes
Video and voice callYesYesYes
End-to-end encryption Personal messages and calls are end-to-end encrypted.Only for secret chatAll features are end-to-end encrypted
Type of softwareClosed-source privacyOpen-source privacyOpen-source privacy
Information collectionUser’s location, IP address, mobile operator, timezone, phone number, and details of a Facebook or WhatsApp account.Device data, IP addresses for moderation, phone number and the User IDOnly phone number for registration
Group chatsUp to 256 membersUp to 200,000 members1,000 members
File sharing capabilityVideos with 16MB limit in size and regular files up to 100MB2 GB100 MB
Folder managementChats can be stored through emailChats can be moved in to foldersNo such feature exists with Signal
Disappearing messages featureEnables self-destruction of a message after 7 daysEnabled through self-destruct timerEnable self-destruction after 5 seconds to 7 days once a user read the message
Data backupYes, online and offline backup on google driveYes, on Telegram’s cloudNo, stored on its own cloud platform
Group chat securityE2ENoE2E
Cross platformYesYesYes

Analyst’s Views

Better World is of the view that while the responses to this survey do reflect users’ displeasure with the new privacy policy, the actual actions taken by them will likely be different in many cases. Particularly, those users who are considering to quit WhatsApp in a month’s time, are more likely to have second thoughts and may stay put. It is also likely that some of the users who have already quit may come back after some time.

The key reason for such reconsiderations would be the huge user base that WhatsApp currently enjoys. While WhatsApp had a colossal global base of 2 billion subscribers, Telegram has a much smaller base of 400 million and Signal has a miniscule base of 20 million by comparison. Even if a few million WhatsApp users move to other platforms, it will not be fruitful if a significant percentage of their contacts also move to those very platforms. If that doesn’t happen, users could feel compelled to come back to WhatsApp for their daily messaging needs.

Notably, when considering alternative apps, 26% said they were sticking with WhatsApp. Further, when asked to provide a timeline for quitting, 28% said they had no plans to quit. It is quite possible that when it comes to actually quitting the platform, a much higher number of users will reconsider.

A consolidated view of respondents’ profiles

WhatsApp privacy policy-Graph7

About the Analyst and the Survey Methodology

Deepak KumarDeepak Kumar

Deepak is an ICT industry analyst with more than 25 years of experience in researching and analyzing multiple domains. His focus areas are strategic business and marketing advisory, sales enablement, and public speaking.  He has published reports, whitepapers, case studies, and blogs in areas of cloud, mobility, social media, and analytics.

He is Founder and Chief Research Officer at BM Nxt and Better World. He has earlier worked with IDC, Reuters, Voice&Data, and Dataquest in leadership roles spanning research, advisory, and editorial functions. 

About the report

The Better World WhatsApp Privacy Policy Survey Report was prepared by analyzing results of a primary research and supplementing it with data and insights collected from secondary research.  

The Better World WhatsApp Privacy Policy Survey was conducted via an online form that was circulated among more 1,000 respondents.  A total of 565 valid responses were collected during the period 9 January to 25 January 2021.  Better World also spoke to multiple respondents for qualitative insights. The surveys were led Jatinder Singh, Director, Research and Insights, Better World, and independent market researcher Deepti Arora.  

Acknowledgements

I take this opportunity to sincerely thank all the survey respondents for taking time out and providing their inputs, without which this report would not have been completed in a timely manner. Special thanks are due to the following individuals for adding value to the report and providing viewpoints representative of different user and stakeholder segments.

 

CIO Vijay Sethi bids adieu to Hero MotoCorp

CIO Vijay Sethi bids adieu to Hero MotoCorp

CIO Vijay Sethi

Vijay Sethi

Hero MotoCorp’s long-standing CIO Vijay Sethi has decided to bid adieu to the company after serving the firm for over 13 years. Besides donning the CIO hat, Sethi was also managing the corporate social responsibility (CSR) and human resource functions at the world’s largest two-wheeler manufacturing company.

Sethi had joined Hero MotoCorp in September 2007 from pharma major Ranbaxy, where he had served as director – business solutions (IT). Prior to Ranbaxy, he had worked as a management consultant for Tata Consultancy Services for over seven years.

While the automaker is yet to announce Sethi’s replacement, it has named Pradeep Eledath as interim head of IT. Eledath has over two decades of experience in information technology, cybersecurity, and digital transformation. Mike Clarke will assume the role of chief human resources officer and COO.

A highly acclaimed CIO and a frequent speaker at various institutes and forums, Vijay Sethi holds a Master’s degree in industrial engineering, an MBA in materials management, and a Bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the National Institute of Technology, Kurukshetra.

Sethi is also a member of several national forums. He is Chairman of IT committee of Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), Co-chairman of CII Core Group on Cyber Security, member of CII’s National Committee on IT/ITeS, and board member of SAP India User Group (INDUS). He has also been a member of the National Knowledge Council and IP Committee of CII.

About Hero Motocorp

Hero MotoCorp Limited, formerly known as Hero Honda, is an Indian multinational motorcycle and scooter manufacturer based in New Delhi. Headed by Pawan Munjal, the company is the world’s largest two-wheeler manufacturer. In India, it has a market share of about 46% in the two-wheeler category.

The largest two-wheeler manufacturer in the country is reportedly working on the launch of an electric passenger car in India as part of its future mobility vision.

For other recent C-Track movements, click here.

Better World User Survey on WhatsApp Privacy Policy

Better World User Survey on WhatsApp Privacy Policy

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Users vent out displeasure, want government to crack whip

WhatsApp Privacy Policy Survey Report

Survey and analysis by Deepak Kumar

There is a thin line that divides respect for privacy and intrusion of privacy. In the age of the digital, this line becomes wavy and fuzzy as well. For big internet companies, the user data that resides behind the line is a gold mine. The more they get of it, the richer they get.

The recent WhatsApp privacy policy changes are just about that. By gaining a right to use and share WhatsApp’s select user data with partners, Facebook aspires to gain an unsurmountable edge in the digital advertising world. It goes without saying that WhatsApp data can help reap rich ad dividends for parent company Facebook. Users are not pleased. In respose to the one-week-long Better World survey concluded recently, a majority of them (67%) want the government to step in some way, as discussed ahead in this report. Notably, these include Business WhatsApp users as well. In fact, by the time of writing this report, various leading media portals had reported that government had written to WhatsApp and asked the company to roll back the proposed privacy-policy changes.

It all started when WhatsApp started sending out notifications to its users to the effect that it had updated its privacy policy and the users could either accept the new policy or quit using WhatsApp by 8 February 2021. Meanwhile, while this report was underway, the deadline was extended by more than three months. Users now have to accept the new privacy policy by 15 May.

WhatsApp’s privacy-policy change and the aftermath

Users’ retort has indeed been quick, sharp, and massive. They poured out their disapprovals in words as well as in actions. Millions of users posted and tweeted their angst against the move and even signed up on alternative messaging apps such as Signal and Telegram. Tesla Founder Elon Musk’s two-word tweet, “Use Signal,” helped drive a switch from WhatsApp, particularly given his following of 41.5 million on Twitter.

The rush to leave WhatsApp was so high that servers of Signal were not able to take the load of new signups. At one point, Signal sent out a tweet, “Verification codes are currently delayed across several providers because so many new people are trying to join Signal right now…Hang in there.”

On 11 January 2021, Facebook’s shares declined 4.01% on a day when Nasdaq slipped just 1.55%. On 12 January, it further declined 2.24% on a day when Nasdaq rose 0.77%. On 14 January, it happened to be at the lowest in more than six months.

Better World ran a quick user survey, where 37% users said they considered the move a serious breach of their privacy, while 45% said they it was not good but they could live with it. Only around 18% said the change didn’t bother them at all. However, some of these 18% users were already using other messaging apps along with WhatsApp.

WhatsApp privacy policy-Graph1

What’s the big deal about privacy in the age of social media?

In the age of social media, many of us have become comfortable sharing our thoughts and views on Facebook. In fact, many people don’t mind sharing sensitive personal information such as location and travel plans not just with friends but also with public at large.

However, when it comes to WhatsApp, the behavior often changes. Many of the users’ chats are peer-to-peer in nature and may not be meant for public viewing or consumption. The same would apply to the other activities they perform on WhatsApp, whether today or in future. These would include the financial and transactional activities performed on the WhatsApp platform.

In a digital living environment, if a Facebook wall may be considered comprising areas of the lobby and the living room, WhatsApp will certainly be akin to the bedroom and beyond.

No wonder, the recent changes in WhatsApp’s privacy policy have created a din that Facebook could not see coming.

In the wake of the user backlash, WhatsApp had to get into a defensive mode, sending out clarifications and explanations. However, a damage had been done by then. In a first reaction, 17% users responded to the Better World survey said they were quitting/had quit WhatsApp for good, while 45% said they would accept the change but start exploring other or additional options. Interestingly, 12% said they were already using another social messaging app. However, a good 26% said they would accept the changes and keep using WhatsApp as before.

WhatsApp privacy policy-Graph2

The myth that users are unaware and don’t care for privacy is broken

Often, as an extension to the assumption that transparency is the hallmark of a digital age, it is argued that privacy is hardly a thing that users care about. The user backlash against WhatsApp’s privacy assumptions easily breaks that myth. It also reminds one of the “Free Basics” event a few years ago. Users had then considered it an attempt to compromise ‘net neutrality,’ and Facebook had to roll the offer back.

The promptness of users in defending their privacy and other rights can easily be evidenced by these two examples. The events also show that users are well aware of the repercussions of any policy change or a new offering in the internet world. This is echoed by this survey results, with 80% users stating they were aware that WhatsApp was changing its privacy policy, and would be sharing a range of user data with Facebook and Instagram platforms with effect from 8 February 2021 (now 15 May 2021). The remaining 20% users said they were not aware of such changes. It is likely that some of these users were yet to receive the notifications regarding policy change when they took this survey.

Further, around 47% of users said they understood the implications of WhatsApp’s new privacy policy for users reasonably well and another 18% said they understood it fully well. By contrast only 29% said they didn’t understand it well enough while another 6% said they didn’t understand it at all. Overall, this implies a high incidence of awareness around WhatsApp’s new privacy policy.

Notably, while the messages will remains end-to-end encrypted, the new policy means sharing a host of user-related information with Facebook and other third-party platforms. These include information about a user’s location, IP address, mobile operator, timezone, phone number, and receipt of a Facebook or WhatsApp account. Additionally, conversations associated with business accounts will now be shared with Facebook.

WhatsApp privacy policy-Graph3

The damage-control measures may be too little too late; more is needed

WhatsApp has issued a number of clarifications and explanations pertaining to the change. Those clarifications, however, have been far from satisfactory. Its parent company Facebook says the new policy changes are directed only at Business WhatsApp accounts and not the individual accounts. Also, it says only certain ad-related information will be shared with Facebook and other group companies.

However, on the actual Privacy Policy page, some of the statements may sound alarming to users. It states in one place, “We work with third-party service providers and other Facebook Companies to help us operate, provide, improve, understand, customize, support, and market our Services,” and adds, “When we share information with third-party service providers and other Facebook Companies in this capacity, we require them to use your information on our behalf in accordance with our instructions and terms.”

What if third-party service providers don’t follow the “instructions and terms,” as had happened when in 2018 Cambridge Analytica was found to have harvested data of 87 million users from Facebook in 2016 under the guise of a survey app? In September 2018, again, hackers were able to exploit an API vulnerability to gain access to data of around 50 million users. In September 2019, data of 419 million Facebook users, including names and phone numbers, was exposed online, said Techcrunch. Three months later, data of 267 million Facebook users was reported by Comparitech as being in the wild. In March 2020, Comparitech revised the number to 309 million after finding data of another 42 million residing on another server had been compromised as well.

Given Facebook’s not-so-stellar record in protecting user data from being exploited by threat actors, it may be concerning for users to let some of their WhatsApp data be mined by Facebook and other third-party service providers.

WhatsApp, on its Privacy Policy page, further adds, “When you or others use third-party services or other Facebook Company Products that are integrated with our Services, those third-party services may receive information about what you or others share with them.” “Please note that when you use third-party services or other Facebook Company Products, their own terms and privacy policies will govern your use of those services and products.”

WhatsApp is not clear what this amounts to when used in conjunction with the previous two statements. Does this mean that if WhatsApp users share certain information with Facebook or other third-party services integrated with WhatsApp, the privacy policies of those services take over and WhatsApp’s privacy policy loses jurisdiction?

It will help if WhatsApp addresses such concerns and questions in its Privacy Policy document.

Pavan DuggalPavan Duggal, Indian cyber law expert

“I’m surprised that WhatsApp has done this even though India is their largest market. Effectively this means that WhatsApp, apart from sharing personal data, also discloses your transaction-associated information, which means including your credit card number, your debit card number, and your bank details. At the same time, they will share the IP address of users. It’s a very perilous situation, especially in a country that lacks a strong legal ecosystem around cyber laws and data security. Such policy changes can upsurge the probabilities of misusing users’ data by anti-social elements.  I strongly believe that people should count on more secure platforms such as Signal and Telegram for their messaging needs now.”

Rajesh Agarwal, Head IT, Aamor Inox

“People are moving to Signal and Telegram, but they are also coming back to WhatsApp. I’ve been using Signal for some time, along with WhatsApp, and found it is not as mature as WhatsApp is. There are many missing aspects in Signal, like, the personal reply feature. I found even the deletion of chat a cumbersome process in Signal. I understand the privacy concerns, but that’s there across the app ecosystem, and here WhatsApp is at least telling users what it is sharing and what’s not. Most of the users are testing Telegram and Signal while keeping WhatsApp as a primary communication tool. It will be exciting to see if this behaviour fluctuates and WhatsApp could address some of the privacy concerns that users may have”

Shashwat DCShashwat DC, Communications & Engagement (Research) at Azim Premji University

“While WhatsApp may try to dispel all fears about privacy expounding that its messaging platform is end-to-end encrypted, in reality, Facebook seems to trying to seize a lot of personal data to earn from its advertising business. To avoid such instances and provide users much-needed control over their data, India needs to implement its data protection law just like Europe’s stringent GDPR at the earliest. The world’s largest democracy, with a burgeoning IT sector, cannot risk the privacy of its citizens.”

There is a need for stakeholders to establish certain minimum privacy-policy norms

The right to privacy has been recognized as a fundamental right emerging primarily from Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Article 21 pertains to protection of life and personal liberty, and states, “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.” In August 2017, Government of India had set up a committee under the chairmanship of retired Justice BN Srikrishna to submit a report on data protection. The committee submitted its report in July 2018.

In its opening note, the report recognized that “the protection of personal data holds the key to empowerment, progress, and innovation.”

The Committee had noted that “any regime that is serious about safeguarding personal data of the individual must aspire to the common public good of both a free and fair digital economy.” “Freedom refers to enhancing the autonomy of the individuals with regard to their personal data in deciding its processing which would lead to an ease of flow of personal data,” it added.

Justice Srikrishna Committee had emphasized that processing (collection, recording, analysis, disclosure, etc.) of personal data should be done only for “clear, specific and lawful” purposes. Also, only that data which is necessary for such processing is to be collected from anyone.

Based on the recommendations of the committee, amounting to a draft Personal Data Protection bill prepared in 2018, a revised Personal Data Protection Bill was approved and placed in December 2019. A joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) chaired by Meenakashi Lekhi and comprising 20 members from Lok Sabha and 10 members from Rajya Sabha was constituted to submit its report. The JPC had conducted more than 55 sittings in 2020. Oral evidences were heard by the JPC from various state as well as non-state actors including Amazon, Google, Facebook, Jio Platforms, Paytm, and Twitter, among others. The final report of the JPC is awaited.

 Despite the fact that right to privacy has been recognized as a fundamental constitutional right, experts have been of the opinion that a law on data protection should be dynamic and not statutory in nature. This is more so because as digital economy becomes more and more prevalent and mainstream, data itself becomes dynamic in nature.

Coming to data protection, it is important to first distinguish between stationary data and moving data. While it can be reasonably guaranteed to foolproof privacy and security of stationary data, it can get very hard to ensure privacy of moving data.

The velocity of a moving data can be lightning fast in today’s digital environments. So once a private data gets into a public domain, even the slightest lapse or gap at the end of a data custodian could be disastrous. The hacks and misuses listed out earlier in this report are a testimony to this assertion.

It is therefore critical that, as we progress further into the digital economy, we ought to remove all regulatory fuzziness and laxity on the privacy front. A majority of respondents to the Better World survey subscribe to this view, with 24% noting that the government should ask WhatsApp to roll back the changes and another 43% stating that there needs to be a more holistic regulation in place. However, 33% of the users said that it would be better to let users be the best judge, though less than 22% of these users said they were fully aware of the implications of WhatsApp’s new privacy policy as users. Of the remaining 78%, slightly more than 26% said as users they didn’t understand the implications of WhatsApp’s new privacy policy at all or well enough, though more than 54% of these users said they reasonably understood the implications if not fully well.

WhatsApp privacy policy-Graph4

The choice of alternative reinforces that privacy is the key concern

Signal, which is considered to be the most privacy-oriented messaging app (see Table), was the first choice of those users who said they will look for WhatsApp alternatives. In this case, respondents had the option of selecting one or more apps, including WhatsApp. Telegram, which is considered second-most privacy-friendly app, had the second highest user preference.

While 34% of the users voted for Telegram as a WhatsApp alternative (and in some cases, as a replacement), a good 24% voted for Signal also. A fair percentage of respondents (15%) said they were sticking with WhatsApp even though they were using or considering to use apps other than WhatsApp as well.

The immediate user response, as evidenced from the survey, has been quite aggressive. While 18% of respondents said they had already quit WhatsApp as the only app, another 25% said they planned to do so within a week’s time and yet another 29% said they planned to quit in a month’s time. However, 28% said they had no plans to quit WhatsApp.

FeaturesWhatsAppTelegramSignal
Subscribers (Global)2 billion400 million20 million
Cross platformYesYesYes
Video and voice callYesYesYes
End-to-end encryption Personal messages and calls are end-to-end encrypted.Only for secret chatAll features are end-to-end encrypted
Type of softwareClosed-source privacyOpen-source privacyOpen-source privacy
Information collectionUser’s location, IP address, mobile operator, timezone, phone number, and details of a Facebook or WhatsApp account.Device data, IP addresses for moderation, phone number and the User IDOnly phone number for registration
Group chatsUp to 256 membersUp to 200,000 members1,000 members
File sharing capabilityVideos with 16MB limit in size and regular files up to 100MB2 GB100 MB
Folder managementChats can be stored through emailChats can be moved in to foldersNo such feature exists with Signal
Disappearing messages featureEnables self-destruction of a message after 7 daysEnabled through self-destruct timerEnable self-destruction after 5 seconds to 7 days once a user read the message
Data backupYes, online and offline backup on google driveYes, on Telegram’s cloudNo, stored on its own cloud platform
Group chat securityE2ENoE2E
Cross platformYesYesYes
WhatsApp privacy policy-Graph5
WhatsApp privacy policy-Graph6

Analyst’s Views

Better World is of the view that while the responses to this survey do reflect users’ displeasure with the new privacy policy, the actual actions taken by them will likely be different in many cases. Particularly, those users who are considering to quit WhatsApp in a month’s time, are more likely to have second thoughts and may stay put. It is also likely that some of the users who have already quit may come back after some time.

The key reason for such reconsiderations would be the huge user base that WhatsApp currently enjoys. While WhatsApp had a colossal global base of 2 billion subscribers, Telegram has a much smaller base of 400 million and Signal has a miniscule base of 20 million by comparison. Even if a few million WhatsApp users move to other platforms, it will not be fruitful if a significant percentage of their contacts also move to those very platforms. If that doesn’t happen, users could feel compelled to come back to WhatsApp for their daily messaging needs.

Notably, when considering alternative apps, 26% said they were sticking with WhatsApp. Further, when asked to provide a timeline for quitting, 28% said they had no plans to quit. It is quite possible that when it comes to actually quitting the platform, a much higher number of users will reconsider.

A consolidated view of respondents’ profiles

WhatsApp privacy policy-Graph7

About the Analyst and the Survey Methodology

Deepak KumarDeepak Kumar

Deepak is an ICT industry analyst with more than 25 years of experience in researching and analyzing multiple domains. His focus areas are strategic business and marketing advisory, sales enablement, and public speaking.  He has published reports, whitepapers, case studies, and blogs in areas of cloud, mobility, social media, and analytics.

He is Founder and Chief Research Officer at BM Nxt and Better World. He has earlier worked with IDC, Reuters, Voice&Data, and Dataquest in leadership roles spanning research, advisory, and editorial functions. 

About the report

The Better World WhatsApp Privacy Policy Survey Report was prepared by analyzing results of a primary research and supplementing it with data and insights collected from secondary research.  

The Better World WhatsApp Privacy Policy Survey was conducted via an online form that was circulated among more 1,000 respondents.  A total of 565 valid responses were collected during the period 9 January to 25 January 2021.  Better World also spoke to multiple respondents for qualitative insights. The surveys were led by Jatinder Singh, Director, Research and Insights, Better World, and independent market researcher Deepti Arora.  

Acknowledgements

I take this opportunity to sincerely thank all the survey respondents for taking time out and providing their inputs, without which this report would not have been completed in a timely manner. 

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