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India asks Facebook's WhatsApp to withdraw privacy policy update

Media|India|Business|: New Delhi: India's technology ministry has asked WhatsApp to withdraw changes to its privacy policy the messenger announced this month, saying the new terms take away choice from Indian users. The demand creates a new headache for WhatsApp and its US parent Facebook, which have placed big bets on the South Asian nation to expand their payments and other businesses. "The proposed changes raise grave concerns regarding the implications for the choice and autonomy of Indian citizens," the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology wrote in an email to WhatsApp boss Will Cathcart dated January 18. "Therefore, you are called upon to withdraw the proposed changes," the ministry wrote in the letter seen by Reuters. Read more How WhatsApp lost the trust of its users in India, its largest market WhatsApp delays data sharing change after backlash WhatsApp answers questions about February 8 update, says it doesn't share private information with Facebook Is Signal better, safer than WhatsApp? What would we do without WhatsApp? California-based Facebook invested $5.7 billion last year in the digital unit of Indian conglomerate Reliance with a huge part of that aimed at drawing in tens of millions of traditional shop owners to use digital payments via WhatsApp. With 400 million users in India, WhatsApp has big plans for India's growing digital payments space, including selling health insurance via partners. Those aspirations could take a hit if Indians switch to rival messengers such as Signal and Telegram, downloads of which have surged after WhatsApp said on Jan. 4 it could share limited user data with Facebook and its group firms. It is of "great concern" that Indian users have not been given the choice to opt out of this data sharing with Facebook companies and are being given less choice compared to the app's European users, the tech ministry letter said. "This differential and discriminatory treatment of Indian and European users is attracting serious criticism and betrays a lack of respect for the rights and interest of Indian citizens who form a substantial portion of WhatsApp's user base," it said. The ministry asked WhatsApp to respond to 14 questions including on the categories of user data it collected, whether it profiled customers based on usage and cross-border data flows. WhatsApp did not respond to a request for comment but has previously said the update to its privacy policy did not affect the privacy of users' messages with friends, family and in groups. The company said last week it would delay the new policy launch to May from February, after facing criticism from users in India and elsewhere to the new terms. WhatsApp has launched a media advertising campaign in India to calm worried users. The update to the privacy policy has also resulted in two legal petitions in Indian courts.

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Russian-American climber found dead on Pakistan mountain

Pakistan|: Islamabad: A missing Russian-American climber died on a mountain while preparing to scale the world’s 12th-highest peak, having refused to turn back in dangerous winter conditions, a spokesman for the expedition said Tuesday. Alex Goldfarb pushed on alone when his teammate failed to persuade him to give up during an acclimatising mission, ahead of a bid to scale the nearby 8,051-metre Broad Peak in the Karakoram range on the Chinese border. “We are deeply saddened to have lost our climbing partner and friend,” said Laszlo Pinter, spokesman for the Broad Peak Winter Expedition 2021. “The helicopter search mission has found his body on Pastore Peak where he is presumed to have fallen off the mountain,” he said in a statement. It has been a bittersweet week for the climbing community, which saw 10 Nepali climbers scale K2 for the first time in winter - but also the death of Spanish climber Sergi Mingote on the same mountain. Goldfarb was attempting a winter ascent of Broad Peak with Hungarian Zoltan Szlanko as part of a two-man non-sponsored expedition. The pair had first been acclimatising on the 6,209 metre Pastore Peak. Their team described the attempt as “the cleanest style without any high altitude porters and supplemental oxygen”. Szlanko, an experienced climbing instructor and mountaineer rescuer, deemed conditions too dangerous and insisted both should return, Pinter said, but Goldfarb pressed ahead. Karrar Haidri, a spokesman for the Alpine Club of Pakistan, said the Pakistan Army found Goldfarb’s body on Monday. Broad Peak is one of the so-called “8,000s”, the 14 mountains higher than 8,000 metres. It was first climbed in the summer of 1957 by an Austrian team, while a Polish quartet summited in winter in 2013 but two went missing on the descent and were declared dead days later. Goldfarb had been missing since Saturday, the same day the Nepali team summited K2, the world’s second-highest mountain and the last peak above 8,000 metres to be conquered in winter. Despite being famed for their climbing expertise, there has never before been a Nepali climber on the first winter ascent of a peak higher than 8,000 metres. K2 is known as the “Savage Mountain” because of its punishing conditions: winds can blow at more than 200 kilometres per hour, and temperatures can drop to minus 60 degrees Celsius.