Privacy concern: Stop WhatsApp from forcing users to accept its new privacy policy, govt urges Delhi High Court

By: |
June 04, 2021 4:15 AM

Alleges the messaging platform is obtaining consent of subscribers through trick

WhatsApp,The matter is already being heard by the Delhi HC and the government has in the past hearings also opposed WhatsApp's new privacy policy. On Thursday, the court did not assemble to hear the matter and the next hearing has been pushed to July 22.

Intensifying its opposition to WhatsApp’s new privacy policy, the government on Thursday urged the Delhi High Court to issue an interim direction to the messaging platform to stop bombarding its users with notifications to accept its new terms and conditions. In an additional affidavit filed in the court, the government alleged that WhatsApp is “indulging in anti-users’ practices by obtaining trick consent from users for its updated privacy policy” and those who have not accepted it are being bombarded with such notifications daily. The government also wants the HC to issue a direction to WhatsApp to place on record number of times such notifications are being pushed daily and their conversion rate.

The basic prayer of the government is that WhatsApp should be restrained from implementing the new policy till the challenge to the validity of its policy is finally decided by the court.

“Millions of WhatsApp existing users, those who have not accepted the updated 2021 privacy policy, are being bombarded with notifications on everyday basis,” the ministry of electronics and information technology (MeitY) said, adding that this was being done by “pushing notifications” to the users. “WhatsApp has unleashed its digital prowess to the unsuspecting existing users and would like to force them to accept the updated 2021 privacy policy by flashing such notifications at a regular intervals. The game plan is very clear, i.e., to transfer the entire existing user base committed to updated 2021 privacy policy before the Personal Data Protection (PDP) Bill becomes the law,” the affidavit added.

The matter is already being heard by the Delhi HC and the government has in the past hearings also opposed WhatsApp’s new privacy policy. On Thursday, the court did not assemble to hear the matter and the next hearing has been pushed to July 22.

As is known, under its new privacy policy, which came into force from May 15, WhatsApp seeks to share commercial user data with parent Facebook. It has said that the accounts of those users who have so far not accepted the new terms and conditions, will not be deleted but they would be sent reminders. WhatsApp has said that it would not delete accounts or restrict functionality of its services for such users till the Personal Data Protection Bill becomes the law.

The government has in the past written two stern letters to WhatsApp objecting to its new privacy policy and warning against its implementation. The basic objection of the government is that the changes to the privacy policy and the manner of introducing them, including in FAQ, undermines the “sacrosanct values of informational privacy, data security and user choice for Indian users and harms the rights and interests of Indian citizens”. Stating that it is unilateral, unfair and unacceptable change, it has also raised objections regarding the differential treatment accorded by WhatsApp to its users in India compared to those in European Union.

Responding to the development, a WhatsApp spokesperson said, “We will not limit the functionality of how WhatsApp works in the coming weeks. The recent update does not change the privacy of people’s personal messages. Its purpose is to provide additional information about how people can interact with businesses if they choose to do so.”

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