HC seeks CCI stand on Facebook, WhatsApp appeals against single judge order on privacy policy

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Updated: May 06, 2021 1:12 PM

The Delhi High Court on Thursday sought response of the Competition Commission of India (CCI) on the appeals of Facebook and WhatsApp against a single judge order dismissing their pleas against a probe ordered into the messaging app's new privacy policy.

competetion commission of India, Delhi High Court, WhatsApp new privacy policy, FacebookDelhi HC bench issued notice to the CCI that had ordered the probe and sought its response by May 21.

The Delhi High Court Thursday asked the Competition Commission of India to reply on the appeals of Facebook and WhatsApp against a single judge order dismissing their pleas against the probe CCI ordered into the instant messaging app’s new privacy policy.

A bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Jasmeet Singh issued notice to the CCI which had ordered the probe and sought its response by May 21, the next date of hearing. The single judge on April 22 had said though it would have been “prudent” for the CCI to await the outcome of petitions in the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court against WhatsApp’s new privacy policy, not doing so would not make the regulator’s order “perverse” or “wanting of jurisdiction”.

The court had said it saw no merit in the petitions of Facebook and WhatsApp to interdict the investigation directed by the CCI. The CCI had contended before the single judge 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 saying 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 had “drifted far away” from the competition aspect and was looking into privacy issues which were 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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