WhatsApp starts identifying and sharing ‘legal’ names of users enabling payments in India

WhatsApp has started identifying the “legal” names of users who have enabled the Unified Payments Interface (UPI)-based payment functionality on its app. These names, which are those associated with users’ bank accounts and which may be different from profile names, will also be displayed to people who receive payments through WhatsApp. The new ruling is a result of UPI guidelines established by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) which aim to prevent fraud, the Meta-owned instant messaging app said.

To notify users of the update, WhatsApp has started giving a notification in its app which contains a link to an FAQ page detailing the legal name requirement.

“When you use Payments on WhatsApp, other UPI users will be able to see your legal name. This is the same name on your bank account,” the FAQ page says.

The notification started rolling out to users on Android and iOS since late March, following guidelines issued by the NPCI. It appears in the Help section of WhatsApp as a new shortcut named About UPI Payments and Legal Name which contains the link to the FAQ page.

WhatsApp gives the link to its Legal Name Requirement FAQ page in the Help section

“The name associated with your bank account is the name that will be shared,” the FAQ page says.

Normally, WhatsApp users have the choice to choose any name up to 25 characters that they want to use on the app. They can also include emojis in their profile name to make it distinctive. The new requirement, however, made it mandatory for the app to identify and share the real names of its users that matched their bank accounts when they signed up for the payment feature.

“To prevent fraud, UPI guidelines state that the recipient’s name is displayed to the sender during the transaction,” a WhatsApp spokesperson said in a statement to Gadgets 360. “WhatsApp displays the recipient’s name on the UPI PIN screen in accordance with this compliance requirement and the practice of all UPI applications.”

Although other UPI-based payment apps require specific user details, including their legal name at sign-up, WhatsApp’s same requirement is viewed with a different view by some privacy advocates. private life.

“Traditional payment apps were pure payment products where it was implied that bank accounts and legal names would be shared,” said Srikanth Lakshmanan, coordinator of consumer awareness collective Cashless Consumer. “But WhatsApp connects payments to a social media app – which has never warranted legal names.”

Prateek Waghre, policy director of the Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF), based on a digital rights advocacy group, agreed with Lakshmanan and said users should be careful about how they use payments UPI and would discuss the same.

“Just because you’re making a payment from WhatsApp doesn’t necessarily mean you want to give someone your full legal name. I think that’s something WhatsApp needs to think about in terms of how to protect user privacy in this use case,” says Waghré.

Lakshmanan also raised a hypothetical concern – for which Waghre also expressed concern – that Meta could possibly link users’ Facebook, Instagram and Messenger profiles with their legal names available on WhatsApp. However, WhatsApp’s spokesperson explicitly denied Meta’s access to users’ legal name.

“Meta does not have access when WhatsApp displays this [legal] name,” the spokesperson said.

Kazim Rizvi, founding director of public policy think tank The Dialogue, said WhatsApp’s requirement of legal names was nothing but a regular compliance requirement required by all payment apps.

“As a messaging platform, WhatsApp gives its users the freedom to use any name they want,” he said.

For some time, WhatsApp has been trying to grow the adoption of its payment feature in the country. Last month, the app received the green light from NPCI to expand its functionality to 100 million users. It also recently started offering cashback to people making payments through WhatsApp.


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