Plea in Supreme Court seeks Roll back of WhatsApp Privacy Policy Changes

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A plea has been filed in the Apex Court, seeking a direction to instant messaging platform WhatsApp to roll back its recently-launched new privacy policy on the ground that it is violative of laws & can impact the country’s security.

The petition filed by the Confederation of All India Traders has also sought a direction to the Centre to intervene in the matter & frame guidelines to govern large technology-based companies such as WhatsApp Inc., Facebook Inc. & Facebook India Online Services Private Limited.

The plea filed through Lawyer Vivek Narayan Sharma says the Public Interest Litigation was necessitated due to the failure of the Centre in carrying out its constitutional duty & responsibility to protect the rights to privacy & freedom of speech & expression of the citizens of India.

It says that “The respondent no.1 — Union of India — has granted permission to respondent nos 2 to 4 to run the WhatsApp application in India, but has failed to play the role of a guardian to protect the fundamental rights of citizens in as much as WhatsApp, which is rendering essential public services by enabling citizens to communicate, has recently imposed unconstitutional privacy conditions which are not only violative of the law but can impact the national security of the country”.

The petition says the Centre has failed to impose necessary & restrictive conditions in the instant case, while the European Union’s (EU) Antitrust Authority imposed serious restrictions on the proposed policy of WhatsApp & a fine of 110 million euros on the instant messaging platform in 2017.

“…on January 4, 2021, WhatsApp introduced its new privacy policy through which it scrapped its ”opt-out policy” & from now on, users will have to compulsorily consent to share their data with Facebook & its group companies for using the platform. The new policy will come into effect from February 8, 2021,” it says.

The petitioner said the updated privacy policy of WhatsApp would adversely impact the citizens’ fundamental right to privacy & is also fundamentally opposed to their representation.

“Today, high government officials like ministers & members of Parliament, judges, senior bureaucrats, defence personnel, crores of traders & well-known businessmen & so on use WhatsApp for sharing confidential & personal information & the compromise in the privacy policy would result in serious repercussions even for the national security of India,” the petition says.

CommentsIt says that aggrieved by the impugned policy of WhatsApp & its impact thereof, the petitioner had written to the Centre, asking it to intervene in the matter & vide its powers provided under the applicable law, direct WhatsApp to roll back it policy or alternatively, ask the firm to cease its operations in India. 

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