Though WhatsApp has yet to see mass uninstalls of its app in India, users concerned about privacy are increasingly downloading rival apps such as Signal and Telegram, research firms say, propelling them higher on the download charts and putting those apps ahead of their ubiquitous rival in India for the first time.
The reaction in India – where 400 million users exchange more messages on WhatsApp than anywhere in the world – has forced the messaging app to unleash an advertising blitz costing tens of millions of rupees this week in at least 10 English and Hindi newspapers.
“Respect for your privacy is coded into our DNA,” WhatsApp said in one newspaper announcement.
When asked for comment, WhatsApp referred Reuters to its published statements on privacy.
Media campaigns are similar to those conducted two years ago when India was criticized for failing to adequately contain false information, highlighting the severity of the crisis of the world’s most popular messaging platform.
Parent companies Facebook and WhatsApp are betting heavily in India, and any complaining user may succumb to their plans.
Last year, Facebook invested US$5.7 billion in the digital division of Indian petroleum technology group Reliance, which was the largest transaction since the social media giant acquired WhatsApp for US$22 billion in 2014.
A large part of India’s investment depends on the WhatsApp and Reliance projects to allow approximately 30 million moms and owners of popular stores to conduct digital transactions.