NEW DELHI: The National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) has sought clarifications from search giant Google and messaging application WhatsApp about plans to store all data pertaining to Indian users on their respective UPI-based payment apps exclusively within the country.
A senior government official told ET that NPCI has sent separate letters to Google and WhatsApp and said the move indicates the retail payments body’s alignment with the stance taken by the Reserve Bank.
RBI had set a deadline of October 15 for all payments companies to store data exclusively within India, and has refused to budge despite hectic lobbying by global players.
“Companies say they store payments data in India, but are keeping a mirror copy abroad. India, however, is looking at keeping everything locally,” the official said.
WhatsApp had earlier claimed in a statement that it has started storing payments data in India but offered no clarity on whether it is storing data “exclusively” in the country — a key stipulation of RBI.
Google hasn’t so far publicly stated its current position on local storage of payments data and has been voicing support for free flow of cross-border information. In response to ET’s queries, a Google spokesperson said, “We are working to increase our data residency capacity in India to support our partners that are regulated by RBI.”
A representative for WhatsApp declined to comment specifically on NPCI’s letter, but said at present “almost 1 million people are testing WhatsApp payments in India”.
The senior official who briefed ET on NPCI’s missives said the need for clarity has become acute as WhatsApp is asking India to ensure a “level playing” field.
The messaging app is still awaiting regulatory approval for its payments business even as global rivals such as Google have gone live with a payments service.
During a recent interview to ET, in reply to a question on data localization, WhatsApp global head Chris Daniels said, “It’s critical that Indian leaders ensure a level playing field and that companies operating in India receive equal treatment.”
He added that earlier this year the Facebook-owned company had started work to localize payments data and now stores the required data in India. “We remain in beta here pending guidance from NPCI, and in the meantime, our teams are turning their focus to building WhatsApp payments for other countries,” Daniels told ET in October.