After Whatsapp says it shares user data like phone numbers, device details, here is what SC ordered it to do

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New Delhi | Published: September 7, 2017 6:06:22 AM

The Supreme Court on Friday asked instant messaging services WhatsApp to file a detailed affidavit stating the kind of user information it shares with its parent and social networking site Facebook and also to undertake that it will not share any consumers’ data with a third entity.

WhatsApp, Facebook, Supreme courtSenior counsel Kapil Sibal and Arvind Datar, representing WhatsApp and Facebook, respectively, initially told the court that they were not sharing user data with any entity, but later conceded that they share details like ‘last seen’, telephone number and device details. (Reuters)

The Supreme Court on Friday asked instant messaging services WhatsApp to file a detailed affidavit stating the kind of user information it shares with its parent and social networking site Facebook and also to undertake that it will not share any consumers’ data with a third entity.

The five-judge Constitution bench led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra asked the messaging app to file an affidavit within four weeks after WhatsApp said it shared “only selective data” like phone number, device details, registration number and last seen details. It also sought the instant messaging services’ views on what can be a test case for data protection after the nine-judge Constitution bench ruled that the right to privacy is a fundamental right.

On its part, the central government informed the court that a law to regulate data protection in the country might be on the anvil after an expert committee submits its report.

Senior counsel Kapil Sibal and Arvind Datar, representing WhatsApp and Facebook, respectively, initially told the court that they were not sharing user data with any entity, but later conceded that they share details like ‘last seen’, telephone number and device details.

The Centre on Wednesday reiterated before the apex court that a committee has been set up under the chairmanship of former apex court judge BN Srikrishna to deliberate on the issue of data protection law in India.

Additional solicitor general Tushar Mehta argued that the panel, which has experts from related fields, would make specific recommendations to the government after going through various facets of data protection.

A petition by two law students — Karmanya Singh Sareen and Shreya Sethi — had sought to put in place regulations to protect the privacy of users of internet messaging services like WhatsApp and social networking sites like Facebook. They alleged that WhatsApp was sharing data of its users with Facebook and various third-party entities.

The students had challenged a Delhi High Court’s order last year upholding the company’s 2016 policy to share user information with Facebook. The HC had earlier restrained WhatsApp from sharing with Facebook user information existing up to September 25, 2016, when its new privacy policy came into effect. It had in September last year directed WhatsApp to delete the information/data of persons who opted out of the service before September 25, 2016, and not to share it with Facebook or its group companies.

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