SC refers WhatsApp privacy policy matter to Constitution bench

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New Delhi | Published: April 6, 2017 5:59:24 AM

The Supreme Court on Wednesday referred a petition seeking to put in place regulations to protect the privacy of users of internet messaging services like WhatsApp and social networking sites like Facebook to a Constitution bench.

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. (Reuters)

The Supreme Court on Wednesday referred a petition seeking to put in place regulations to protect the privacy of users of internet messaging services like WhatsApp and social networking sites like Facebook to a Constitution bench.

A bench headed by Chief Justice JS Khehar said the parties should appear before the Constitution bench on April 18 and formulate issues.

The apex court had on January 16 sought responses from the Centre and telecom regulator Trai on a plea filed by two law students raising privacy concerns of over 157 million Indians. They said that their privacy has been infringed by social networking sites — WhatsApp and Facebook — for alleged commercial use of personal communication.

The students — Karmanya Singh Sareen and Shreya Sethi —had challenged a Delhi High Court’s order in September last year, 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. They had demanded an option of ‘do not share’ for users who did not wish to share information with Facebook.

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“There is nothing more private, personal and confidential for any person than the private conversations and messages exchanged with their family or other acquaintances and people in general… It is the responsibility of the state to guarantee and ensure protection of personal and private data,” they said in their appeal.

The HC had earlier restrained instant messaging application WhatsApp from sharing with Facebook the user information existing up to September 25, 2016 when its new privacy policy came into effect.

The HC 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 social networking site Facebook or its group companies.

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