Restrain WhatsApp from implementing new privacy policy: Centre to Delhi HC

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On Friday, they Centre urged Delhi High Court to restrain WhatsApp from implementing its controversial new privacy policy which will come into effect from May 15.

Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad-led Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeITY) stated in an affidavit filed in a petition challenging the implementation of the new terms of service and privacy policy of Facebook-owned messaging platform slated to rolled out in May.

The plea filed by Seema Singh and Meghan Singh stated that the new privacy policy reveals the “fissures” in the data protection and privacy laws in the country. It further said

WhatsApp despite the Indian government’s reservations against the move decided to roll it out at the postponed date, asking users to accept the new terms or risk their service being debarred. The petition has been listed for hearing on April 20.

The Centre, in its affidavit, said, “It is humbly prayed that in view of the above submissions, the Respondent No. 2 (WhatsApp) may be restrained from implementing its new privacy policy and terms of service dated January 4, 2021, from February 8, 2021, or any subsequent date pending adjudication by this court.”

The affidavit further said that the IT Rules impose a host of obligations on a company in relation to the security of the data collected by it in the course of its business. “Notably, the Rules require a body corporate who collects, stores or otherwise deals with data to issue a privacy policy providing for certain safeguards, in addition to imposing various other obligations. The impugned Privacy policy violates the 2011 Rules..,” it said according to PTI.

The government’s affidavit that the Supreme Court has placed a responsibility on  government to ensure data protection and privacy rules regime in the country.”The Union has discharged this obligation by introducing the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 in the Lok Sabha. Upon enactment, this law will provide a robust regime on data protection which will limit the ability of entities such as Respondent No. 2 issuing privacy policies which do not align with appropriate standards of security and data protection,” the affidavit, filed through advocate Kirtiman Singh, said.

It said following the passage of this Bill, the I-T Act 2000 and its rules on data protection, any privacy policy issue issued by corporates such as WhatsApp must comply with the Act and its rules.

In an earlier statement, WhatsApp blamed “misinformation” over panic regarding its prospective limited data sharing policy with parent Facebook.   

WhatsApp earlier said it told the Indian government it’s committed to protecting personal communications across India.

“Due to misinformation and based on feedback from our users, we have pushed back the timeline of acceptance of WhatsApp’s terms of service and privacy policy to the 15th of May. In the meantime, we continue to engage with the government and are grateful for the opportunity to answer questions that we received from them,” said WhatsApp in a statement.

The statement was issued within hours of announcing that it plans to go ahead with its plans to roll out its controversial privacy policy update. Earlier today, the company announced its decision to go ahead with the update despite massive backlash from users who switched to other platforms such as Telegram and Singal in retaliation.

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