WhatsApp Pay Broader Rollout Under Scanner as Facebook Battles Privacy Concerns

WhatsApp was expected to make its payments service open to its 200 million users in India this week. However, it is now said that WhatsApp’s parent company Facebook is battling various privacy concerns related to the service such as how the data will be stored and shared. According to a new report by ET, it’s unknown when the WhatsApp Payments service will be opened to all the users in the country. “There is no clarity on when the service will be extended to all of the (messaging app’s) Indian users,” said one of the bankers partnered with Facebook for piloting the service. It is also revealed that WhatsApp is still in the process of accessing RBI norms on data localisation.

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WhatsApp has been testing payments service in the country since February 2018, but the service has been restricted to less than one million users during the testing phase. WhatsApp has over 200 million users in India alone, and the service was open to just one million users, which is less than the 1% of its user base. As per industry estimates, close to 700,000 users have tried the WhatsApp Pay service and the number could hit one million anytime soon. Any WhatsApp user with payments service can invite another person to try out the service.

“Payments data is used to enable transactions, protect people from abuse and fraud, and offer customer support. The data is stored securely, and sensitive user data such as the last six digits of a debit card and UPI PIN are not stored at all,” a WhatsApp spokesperson told ET.

WhatsApp opened to service to the public in collaboration with ICICI bank back in February 2018. But right now, three banks- HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank and Axis Bank have completed the integration of WhatsApp Pay and other banks will follow suit very soon. SBI will start the integration process very soon, which was reported in the earlier report.

The report of Facebook planning to roll out the service to its entire subscriber base in India also revealed that the company is going ahead with the process even though the banks are not ready for the broader rollout. Today’s ET report added that SBI would join the list after the formal launch of the service.

While three major banks have already integrated into WhatsApp Pay, you might expect the broader rollout of the service, but that’s not going to happen, as per the report. “Going live is definitely not happening this week,” said a senior banker who’s working closely with the project.

When WhatsApp rolled out the pilot service to a few users, it was expected to offer the service to its entire 200 million active user base by the end of March. But Facebook was hit with a new low, thanks to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which halted the entire process.

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