WhatsApp tells Indian government user privacy is 'highest priority'

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FILE PHOTO: A 3D printed Whatsapp logo is placed on a computer motherboard

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Facebook Inc-owned WhatsApp on Monday said that it had told the Indian government that the privacy of users was its highest priority after the country's technology ministry raised questions about the messaging app's new privacy policy.

India's technology ministry asked WhatsApp in a May 18 letter to withdraw its updated privacy policy, which came into effect on May 15, and also said the government could take legal action against the company.

"We have responded to the Government of India's letter and assured them that the privacy of users remains our highest priority," the company said in a statement on Monday. WhatsApp also said its update did not change the privacy of peoples' personal messages.

WhatsApp earlier this year said users would have to review its updated terms by Feb. 8 but delayed the rollout of new business features to mid-May following a global user backlash over the company's data-sharing practices.

"We will not limit the functionality of how WhatsApp works in the coming weeks. Instead, we will continue to remind users from time to time about the update," the WhatsApp statement said.

With more than 500 million people using its services, India is WhatsApp's biggest market and the company has big expansion plans in the country.

WhatsApp's new privacy policy, which allows it to share limited user data with Facebook and its group companies, has led to at least one legal battle in India, while the anti-trust regulator has also ordered an investigation.

(Reporting by Devjyot Ghoshal. Editing by Jane Merriman)

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