The Supreme Court on Monday sought response from the Centre and others on a plea seeking to put in place regulations to protect the privacy of users of internet messaging services like WhatsApp and social networking sites like Facebook.
A bench led by Chief Justice JS Khehar while seeking response from the ministry of communications, Trai, WhatsApp, Facebook and others told senior counsel Harish Salve that the petitioners, Karmanya Singh Sareen and Shreya Sethi, have no right to claim privacy as WhatsApp is a private service and they don’t pay for it.
“You can choose to walk out of WhatsApp if you want to protect your privacy,” the bench said, adding that “what is disturbing here is you want to continue using this private service and at the same time want to protect your privacy… You can choose not avail of it (WhatsApp), you walk out of it”.
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The bench also sought the assistance of AG Mukul Rohatgi in the case. Salve said WhatsApp, which has 155 million users, has become a “public utility service” like telephone calls, which also have now become free.
The two law students had challenged a Delhi HC’s September 2016 order upholding the company’s 2016 policy to share user information with Facebook.
Raising grave concern over privacy issues, the students had argued that the new policy would result in changing the most valuable feature of WhatsApp — privacy of details and data of its users.
while directing the instant messaging app to “delete completely” from its server information/data/details of all users who choose to delete their account.
It, however, directed the Centre and Trai to “consider issues regarding functions of WhatsApp and take an appropriate decision at the earliest as to whether it is feasible to bring the same under a statutory regulatory framework”.