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Seminar: ‘The future is private’: WhatsApp in India and the geopolitics of digital privacy

When: Thursday, June 23, 2022, 11:00 AM - 11:45 AM
Where: Online, Zoom link:

Speaker: Dr Philippa Williams (Queen Mary University of London)

The global dominance of the Meta owned messaging app WhatsApp, and the recent ideological and policy shift by big tech towards digital private spaces raises important questions about the balance between public and private interests in a digital age. This talk examines these questions through the case of WhatsApp in India.


It thereby shifts attention away from western experiences of digital technology and privacy, to centre the ‘digital peripheries’ and an ‘ordinary’ digital technology. Since its India launch in 2010, WhatsApp has reached over 500 million users in the country and become an everyday digital utility. But India’s relationship with WhatsApp is complex and contradictory. In 2017 the Indian government held WhatsApp responsible for aiding the circulation of misinformation, whilst its privacy policy update in 2021 provoked public outcry. Drawing on ongoing research of legal documents, industry reports, financial reports, ad campaigns and interviews, the talk foregrounds the geopolitics of WhatsApp’s privacy architectures, focusing in particular on: i) the legal and contractual dimensions of privacy; ii) privacy by design; iii) privacy narratives and norms and; iv) lived experiences of privacy in India.

About the Speaker

Dr Philippa Williams is a Reader in Human Geography at Queen Mary University of London. One of her research projects (with Lipika Kamra, QMUL) concerns the relationship between people, politics and digital technology in India, with a particular focus on WhatsApp. WhatsApppolitics

About the Event

The Seminar is  25 minutes with a 10 minute Q+A.


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