Don’t use WhatsApp if you don’t like it: Delhi HC

Court was hearing a petition challenging the messaging apps’ new privacy policy

January 18, 2021 02:18 pm | Updated 02:19 pm IST

The policy change was originally scheduled to come into effect on February 8, 2021.

The policy change was originally scheduled to come into effect on February 8, 2021.

“If you feel WhatsApp is likely to compromise with your data, leave WhatsApp”, the Delhi High Court commented on Monday while hearing a petition challenging the messaging apps’ new privacy policy.

Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva asked advocate Manohar Lal, who had filed the petition, if he had read the terms and conditions of any mobile application he use.

“You will be shocked and surprised as to what all you consent to. And it’s a voluntary thing Mr. Lal, don’t accept it. This is a private App. Don’t join in,” Justice Sachdeva remarked as he posted the case for detailed hearing on another date due to paucity of time on Monday.

The court pointed out that WhatsApp had deferred its plan to implement the new privacy policy until May.

WhatsApp’s clarification

On January 16, WhatsApp took to Twitter to clarify that, “No one will have their account suspended or deleted on February 8 and we’ll be moving back our business plans until after May”.

During the brief hearing, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Chetan Sharma, appearing for the Central government, said the issue required some consideration.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, for WhatsApp, said, “This is a hullabaloo about nothing. WhatsApp has consistently said any messages between friends, families, chats are completely encrypted from end-to-end. Even WhatsApp can't read it. So, it is completely safe.

The policy has been the same for the past five years. We have made a change only with regards to business WhatsApp, which is completely different from private chats”.

While posting the case for detailed hearing on January 25, Justice Sachdeva refused to issue notice to WhatsApp as pleaded by Mr. Lal. The court said it still required clarification from Mr. Lal on, “What is the data that you [Mr. Lal] are feeling is going to be compromised?”

“Mr Lal, do you use Google Maps? Do you use web browsers. This will require some time. We will hear it on some other day,” Justice Sachdeva said.

‘Violates right to privacy’

The petition has claimed that WhatsApp new privacy policy violates the right to privacy guaranteed under the Constitution. It said the new policy “virtually gives a 360-degree profile into a person’s online activity” without there being any supervision of the government.

It said WhatsApp changed its privacy policy in arbitrary manner and had even made it compulsory for its users to accept its terms and conditions, failing which the accounts and services would be terminated after February 08, 2021 for the respective user.

“WhatsApp has made a mockery out of our fundamental right to privacy while discharging a public function in India, besides jeopardizing the National Security of the country by sharing, transmitting and storing the users data in some another country and that data, in turn, will be governed by the laws of that foreign country”, it stated.

The plea sought a direction to issue guidelines to ensure such change in privacy policy by WhatsApp are carried out strictly in accordance with the right guaranteed in the Constitution.

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