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What's your problem? Delete WhatsApp if you feel it will imperil data: HC

Delhi High Court says other apps also share data, defers hearing in petition challenging WhatsApp privacy policy to Jan 25

whatsapp | Delhi High Court

Peerzada Abrar  |  Bengaluru 

WhatsApp, Facebook,
The primary contention of the petitioner is that the new policy ‘virtually gives a 360-degree profile into a person’s online activity

The on Monday said that if users feel will comprise their data, they can delete the app. The Court was hearing the petition challenging the updated privacy policy of the Facebook-owned messaging giant. The Court said it did not understand the grievance raised with respect to the messaging platform's new privacy policy.

"It is a private app. Don't join it. What is your grievance?... I can't understand your concern. If you feel will compromise data, delete WhatsApp," a single-judge Bench of Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva said, according to law platform Bar & Bench.

The petition, preferred by advocate Chaitanya Rohilla, has said the new privacy policy of violates the right to privacy, guaranteed under the Constitution of India. The petition has sought a direction to the Central government to exercise its powers under the Information Technology Act and ensure that WhatsApp does not share any data of its users with any third party or Facebook and its companies.

The primary contention of the petitioner is that the new policy ‘virtually gives a 360-degree profile into a person’s online activity’, without any ‘government oversight’, and ‘takes away the choice’ of a user to not share their data with other Facebook-owned apps and third-party apps. The petition has highlighted there is no clarity on the extent to which data will be shared. It raises questions about what will be done with the sensitive data of users.

In the Court, the counsel for the petitioner, advocate Manohar Lal contended that there should be some law, as everything that a user was doing was being analysed by the Facebook-owned WhatsApp. This included personal messages and browsing history.

But the Court said that several other platforms also did the same and not just Whatsapp alone.

It gave the example of Google Maps and mentioned that Google Maps also shares data. The Court asked the counsel for the petitioner, that it doubted if he had read the terms and conditions of any of the apps that he uses.

During the brief hearing, Senior Counsel appearing for WhatsApp and Facebook submitted that the private WhatsApp chats were completely encrypted. They said the petition itself is not maintainable.

Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi representing Facebook told the Court that all social chats between friends and relatives are completely encrypted. He said the change in the privacy policy is related to business WhatsApp.

Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal who was appearing for WhatsApp said that users don't have to message businesses if they don't want to.

The Court has adjourned the matter till January 25. It also observed that the new policy itself had been deferred as of now. But the Court did not issue a notice in the petition yet.

Meanwhile, WhatsApp recently announced delaying by three months the implementation of the new privacy policy. It has faced massive backlash with tens of millions of its users moving from the platform to rivals like Signal and Telegram. The policy change was originally scheduled to come into effect on February 8.

“We’re now moving back the date on which people will be asked to review and accept the terms. No one will have their account suspended or deleted on February 8,” said WhatsApp recently. “We're also going to do a lot more to clear up the misinformation around how privacy and security work on WhatsApp. We’ll then go to people gradually to review the policy at their own pace before new business options are available on May 15.”

It said WhatsApp was built on a simple idea: “what you share with your friends and family stays between you.” The firm said this means it will always protect users personal conversations with end-to-end encryption so that neither WhatsApp nor Facebook can see their private messages. “It’s why we don’t keep logs of who everyone’s messaging or calling. We also can’t see your shared location and we don’t share your contacts with Facebook,” said WhatsApp. It said, instead, the update includes new options people will have to message a business on WhatsApp.

However, last week, the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), which represents 70 million traders, has filed a petition in the Supreme Court challenging the updated privacy policy of WhatsApp.

The petition comes with the prayer to direct WhatsApp to withdraw its new (updated) privacy policy which is encroaching upon various fundamental rights of the citizens granted by Constitution of India.

CAIT has also prayed that Union of India must frame guidelines to govern big technology companies like WhatsApp and frame policies which would protect the privacy of citizens and businesses.

The day’s highlights:

Court remarked that if users feel WhatsApp will comprise their data, they can delete it.

Petition has said the new privacy policy of WhatsApp violates the right to privacy.

Court said several other platforms including Google Maps also share data.

Counsel appearing for WhatsApp, Facebook submitted that private WhatsApp chats were encrypted.

They said the petition itself is not maintainable.

Court deferred hearing in the petition till January 25.

WhatsApp has already delayed by 3 months the implementation of the updated privacy policy.

CAIT, which represents 70 million traders, has filed a petition in the Supreme Court against the policy.

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First Published: Mon, January 18 2021. 18:46 IST