Delhi HC dismisses Facebook, WhatsApp pleas against CCI order to probe privacy policy

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April 22, 2021 12:07 PM

The Delhi High Court on Thursday dismissed pleas by social media platforms, Facebook and WhatsApp, challenging India's competition regulator CCI's order directing a probe into WhatsApp's new privacy policy.

Delhi High Court, Facebook and WhatsApp, probe in whatsApp privacy policy, Competition Commission of IndiaIt said for the time being, it will not delete the accounts of the users who have not accepted the policy and would try to encourage them to get on board with it.

The Delhi High Court on Thursday dismissed pleas by social media platforms, Facebook and WhatsApp, challenging India’s competition regulator CCI’s order directing a probe into WhatsApp’s new privacy policy. Justice Navin Chawla said though it would have been “prudent” for the Competition Commission of India (CCI) to await the outcome of petitions in the Supreme Court and the Delhi HC against WhatsApp’s new privacy policy, but not doing so would not make the regulator’s order “perverse” or “wanting of jurisdiction”.

The court said it saw no merit in the petitions of Facebook and WhatsApp to interdict the investigation directed by the CCI. The CCI had contended that it was not examining the alleged violation of individuals’ privacy which was being looked into by the Supreme Court. It had argued before the court that the new privacy policy of WhatsApp would lead to excessive data collection and “stalking” of consumers for targeted advertising to bring in more users and is therefore an alleged abuse of dominant position.

“There is no question of jurisdictional error,” it had contended and added that WhatsApp and Facebook’s pleas challenging its decision were “incompetent and misconceived”. WhatsApp and Facebook had challenged the CCI’s March 24 order directing a probe into the new privacy policy.

CCI had also told the court that only after the investigation can it be determined whether the data collection by WhatsApp and sharing it with Facebook would amount to an anti-competitive practice or abuse of dominant position. It had also contended that the data collected, which would include an individual’s location, the kind of device used, their internet service provider and whom they are conversing with, would lead to creation of a customer profile and preference which would be monetised by way of targeted advertising and all this amounts to “stalking”.

The two social media platforms had contended that when the top court and the Delhi High Court were looking into the privacy policy, then CCI ought not to have “jumped the gun” and intervened in the issue. They had also said that CCI’s decision was an abuse of the commission’s suo motu jurisdiction. They had claimed that the CCI in the instant case has “drifted far away” from the competition aspect and was looking into privacy issue which was already being looked into by the apex court and the Delhi High Court.

In January, the CCI on its own decided to look into WhatsApp’s new privacy policy on the basis of news reports regarding the same.

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