Indian consumers are increasingly turning to social media for their digital needs and for a new way to connect, but they are being met with a lack of basic consumer rights, experts say.
The country is struggling to meet growing demand for advertising and to get people online.
While consumers often use Facebook, they also use the service for messaging, social networking and shopping.
The government has sought to tackle the lack of information on advertising practices and set up the country’s first digital rights organisation to help the country improve its digital environment.
The Indian government wants to make the internet more inclusive and free of discrimination and bias and to provide more tools to the public and businesses to improve their digital experience.
The Government of India is set to announce a comprehensive digital rights strategy to protect the rights of all Indians to access the internet, said Anupam Kaul, an associate professor at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in New Delhi.
“India is a developing country and the digital environment is evolving at an incredible pace.
There are some areas of growth where we need to be on top of the curve,” she said.”
For instance, there is a need to develop digital content and services for people to be more aware of the risks they face from malicious content and ads.”
Facebook is India’s biggest social network with more than 7 billion active users, and has been an important platform for advertisers to reach out to Indian consumers, said Kaul.
However, there has been a rise in online advertising on Facebook that has been largely unregulated, she added.
“The companies who use Facebook have to comply with Indian law, which is very complex,” said Kankul.
“We don’t know how the laws are being implemented in this country.”
A Facebook spokesperson said the company “strongly believes that consumers’ online privacy and security are of utmost importance”.
“We strive to keep users’ personal information safe and secure, which includes data we collect from the websites and apps they visit, whether it’s when they use Facebook or any other service, and for any other purpose we think is appropriate,” they said in a statement.
“While we have no control over how the data is used, we actively work with our partners to ensure we are following relevant laws and regulations.”
India is also facing an increasing amount of online bullying and harassment, said Gopal Subramaniam, an executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC).
“It is a worrying trend and it is a trend that we are witnessing with increased use of social media, especially Facebook, and the growing number of abusive posts on social media platforms,” he said.
Subramanam added that the use of such online harassment is likely to continue.
“These are threats and they are going to continue to escalate as the technology evolves and the people who use social media have a range of different platforms that they use,” he told Al Jazeera.
Facebook said it was working to improve the privacy of its users, “and to be clear that we don’t store any personally identifiable information”.
A spokesperson for the Indian government said it had “reached out to all stakeholders” on a number of issues, including online advertising, and would “continue to work with Facebook to address these issues”.
“The Indian authorities have asked Facebook to share data on hate speech, hate crimes, hate incidents and hate content,” the spokesperson said.
Facebook has previously come under criticism for its approach to anti-terror and anti-money laundering (AML) measures.
In January, Facebook removed a page that contained anti-India content, saying it violated AML regulations.
In February, the company was forced to take down a page with content deemed to be threatening or discriminatory.
Facebook later removed the pages.
Facebook also faces criticism over its advertising practices in India, which are often criticised as being too vague and inaccurate.
Facebook recently announced plans to launch a new ad network in India that will focus on social network and mobile advertising.
However, Facebook is currently only offering ads for local businesses and services, such as restaurants and hotels.
“We are committed to continuing to expand our ad offerings to the Indian market, and are working to ensure that our ads are more relevant to local communities,” the company said in its statement.
Al Jazeera’s Samir Shah contributed to this report.