WhatsApp, Centre get SC notice on plea alleging lower privacy standards for Indian users

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Updated: Feb 15, 2021 2:37 PM

Notably, WhatsApp in January brought in a new privacy policy, which would lead to more information being shared by the messaging platform with its parent company Facebook.

whatsapp privacy policyThe fresh plea was an interim application filed in a pending petition of 2017. (Image: Reuters)

WhatsApp privacy policy update: In another development regarding WhatsApp and its privacy policy in India, a fresh plea has been filed in the Supreme Court regarding differential treatments of privacy by WhatsApp for the Indian and European users. Now, the apex court has sent a notice to the Government of India and to the instant messaging platform, seeking their reply in this matter within four weeks. While seeking the reply, the Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde said that people in India are gravely apprehensive about losing their privacy and it is their duty to protect the citizens, adding that people value their privacy more than the value of the company.

Notably, WhatsApp in January brought in a new privacy policy, which would lead to more information being shared by the messaging platform with its parent company Facebook. This policy was brought in worldwide, except for users in Europe. While several updates have been brought by the company in the past, this one created an uproar because WhatsApp did not give the users the option to disagree with these terms of service, meaning that any user who wanted to continue using WhatsApp would be required to agree to the new policy. Despite several attempts by WhatsApp to clarify that the updated policy refers solely to business accounts, users worldwide are switching platforms in large numbers due to the increased caution regarding privacy violation which has been building up rapidly over the years.

The fresh plea was an interim application filed in a pending petition of 2017. Over the years, especially after the Cambridge Analytica scandal in which Facebook was probed, users have been highly apprehensive regarding the use of their data without their knowledge and the lack of choice they have in this matter. This is also the reason why over 100 Chinese apps were banned in India last year.

Now, when the new privacy policy was introduced by WhatsApp, users in India were even more outraged because of the exemption granted to users in the European region and not to the users in India, even as Indian users form one of the largest user bases of the Facebook-owned platform.

WhatsApp, in an attempt to justify this differential treatment, told the Supreme Court that Europe had special privacy laws which it needed to follow, and if India had a similar statute, it would follow those rules as well.

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