WhatsApp downloads in India fall by 80% following spyware row: Report

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Signal and Telegram saw a rise in the number of downloads in India, according to the report.

Even as WhatsApp is battling to contain the fallout from spyware controversy, the instant messaging app has seen a drastic slump in the number of downloads in India.

WhatsApp downloads were down by 80% to 1.3 million between October 26 and November 3 from the previous nine-day period, according to a Business Standard report citing analytics firm Sensor Tower’s data. In the previous nine-day period, between October 17 and October 25, downloads stood around 8.9 million, the report added.

The report also pointed out that competing encrypted instant messaging applications gained users during the time WhatsApp downloads went down. Signal downloads in India rose 63% to 9,600 between October 26 and November 3. Telegram saw a 10% growth in downloads to 920,000.

The new report comes at a time when WhatsApp is facing flak over a May 2019 spyware attack that allowed snooping on about 1,400 individuals including 121 from India. WhatsApp said it was targeted using Israel-based NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware. The instant messaging company revealed the spyware exploited vulnerability in the video-calling feature to conduct the attack.

The Indian government has sought explanation from WhatsApp over the spyware attack. “Government of India is concerned at the breach of privacy of citizens of India on WhatsApp. We have asked WhatsApp to explain the kind of breach and what it is doing to safeguard the privacy of millions of Indian citizens,” Information Technology minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had tweeted.

WhatsApp said that the safety and security of its users remain its highest priority. “..which is why in May we blocked the attack and have taken action in the courts to hold NSO accountable,” a spokesman of the company said in a statement.

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