Amid raging debate over the right to privacy, the central government has told the Supreme Court yesterday that personal data was part of a person’s fundamental right to life and cannot be shared freely by internet service providers or social networking sites. The government has apparently taken a stand which is contrary to what was taken before the Supreme Court in the Aadhaar matter that citizens do not have a fundamental right to privacy, as per The Indian Express report. Additional Solicitor General P S Narasimha told a five-judge Constitution Bench that “My (individual’s) personal data is intimate to me. It is an integral part of my right to lead a life with dignity. If there is any contractual obligation between the individual and the internet service provider and it impinges on the individual’s right (under Article 21), State will have to intervene and regulate sharing of such data,” the report said.
A five-judge Constitution Bench of Justices Dipak Misra, A M Khanwilkar, Amitava Roy, A K Sikri and M M Shantanagouder was hearing on the WhatsApp privacy matter. The petitioners had challenged WhatsApp’s policy of sharing user data with its parent company Facebook, saying it amounts to infringement of fundamental rights under Articles 19 (freedom of speech and expression) and 21 (right to life) of the Constitution. The central government has assured that to protect user data a regulatory mechanism will be brought to oversee services like WhatsApp. Senior counsel Kapil Sibal, appearing for WhatsApp, said the litigation was a vendetta by telecom companies who are afraid that it provides free calls and messaging services to users, the report added. Sibal said the data is used to empower citizens and pointed out that the case will open a Pandora’s box as even services like Google, will be affected, which share information to enhance the experience.
Appearing for the petitioner, Senior counsel Harish Salve said dismissed the charge that there was any malafide intention behind the petition. He added that the problem is WhatsApp can read my data, is collecting meta data and profiling data. Salve also pointed out the need for the State intervention to regulate service providers saying that telecommunications was a public duty and certain functions of the private enterprises were now public functions. Contending that WhatsApp does not share data with third parties, Sibal said, Salve’s submission was without substance. Meanwhile, the five-judge bench asked Sibal why was the platform storing user data if it had no intention to share it. However, the court adjourned the matter for hearing on September 6.