‘People value their privacy more than your money’: Supreme Court tells WhatsApp

By: |
February 16, 2021 3:31 AM

The apex court noted: “People have grave concern about loss of privacy. It’s our duty to protect people’s privacy”. It asked the firm to give an undertaking on oath that private data of users is not being shared with any third party and that it would comply with the country’s data protection law as and when it is in place.

A bench led by Chief Justice SA Bobde, while seeking response from the Centre, WhatsApp and Facebook, said that it would have to intervene to protect people’s privacy.A bench led by Chief Justice SA Bobde, while seeking response from the Centre, WhatsApp and Facebook, said that it would have to intervene to protect people’s privacy.

The Supreme Court on Monday came down heavily on the encrypted messaging app, WhatsApp, saying it may be $2 trillion or $3 trillion company, but “people value their privacy more than your money”.

The apex court noted: “People have grave concern about loss of privacy. It’s our duty to protect people’s privacy”. It asked the firm to give an undertaking on oath that private data of users is not being shared with any third party and that it would comply with the country’s data protection law as and when it is in place.

A bench led by Chief Justice SA Bobde, while seeking response from the Centre, WhatsApp and Facebook, said that it would have to intervene to protect people’s privacy.

The court’s observation came on a plea against WhatsApp’s new privacy policy for Indian users, wherein it plans to share commercial user data with its parent firm Facebook. This policy was to be implemented from February 8 but due to user backlash has been put on hold till May 15.

The government has also written to WhatsApp, terming its new privacy policy as unilateral, unfair and unacceptable change, and asked it to withdraw it. It has also sought a detailed information about its data sharing protocols and business practices, while raising objections regarding the differential treatment accorded by the company to its users in India compared to those in European Union.

The bench told senior counsel Kapil Sibal, Arvind Datar and Mukul Rohatgi, the lawyers appearing for WhatsApp, that it had read in the media that the whole circuit to whom the messages are forwarded, including location is disclosed to Facebook/WhatsApp.

Sibal denied that any private sensitive data is being shared and pointed out that the issue was pending before the Delhi High Court . Senior counsel Shyam Divan argued that Indian users are being treated unfairly as WhatsApp has a different privacy regime for European users. He argued that the privacy policy of WhatsApp cannot be different for India and added that the government should order WhatsApp not to implement the new privacy policy that differentiates between Indian and Europeans in terms of privacy standards.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the bench that “regardless of whether there is a law or not, the right to privacy is part of fundamental rights. They (WhatsApp) must protect the right and they must not share data”.

Sibal told the court that Europe had a special law on privacy and WhatsApp would do the same if India were to come with a similar statute.

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