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WhatsApp policy: Indians apprehensive about privacy, says CJI

A view of Supreme Court of India. File   | Photo Credit: Shanker Chakravarty

Chief Justice of India (CJI) Sharad A. Bobde on Monday said Indians have “grave apprehensions” about privacy from Facebook and WhatsApp.

“People have grave apprehensions about loss of privacy. You may be a two or three trillion company, but people value their privacy more. It is our duty to protect people’s privacy,” Chief Justice Bobde, heading a three-judge Bench, addressed lawyers appearing for the social media/instant messaging giants.

“We are telling you what we heard and read - People think that if A sends a WhatsApp message to B and B to C. The circuit of messages is revealed to Facebook,” the CJI addressed senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Arvind Datar, for the companies.

Companies’ denial

Both lawyers vehemently denied this as “misinformation”.

Chief Justice Bobde said,“Say that on oath. We are issuing notice. File a response.”

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, for the government, stated, “This is an apprehension of the nation... Privacy is part of our fundamental rights. They [WhatsApp and Facebook] cannot compromise our privacy... They cannot differentiate.”

The hearing concerned the new privacy policy introduced by WhatsApp on January 4. The allegation is that it scraps users’ ‘opt-out policy’. The user would have to, according to the policy, compulsorily consent to share their data with Facebook and its group, the petitioners have alleged. The policy deadline was February 8 initially, but it was extended to May 15.

Mr. Sibal denied allegations that WhatsApp was treating Europeans and Indians differently. “Europe has a special law [General Data Protection Regulations], India doesn’t. As soon as India has the special law, we will follow. We will follow the law of Parliament,” he submitted. The new privacy policy was applicable to the rest of the world except Europe.

Mr. Datar said the General Data Protection Regulations was followed by probably 20 countries in the world. Allegations of differential treatment being accorded to Indians were unfounded.

Senior advocate Shyam Divan, for petitioner Karmanya Singh Sareen and others challenging the new privacy policy, said they were not on whether WhatsApp was encrypting messages or not. “We are on the point of sharing of meta data for profit,” he submitted.

“There is a different set of rules for Europeans and different for Indians... Even the government has taken serious note and issued notices to the companies,” he said. He urged the court to step in and ensure that no data is leaked.

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Printable version | Apr 21, 2021 10:55:18 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/sc-notice-to-centre-whatsapp-on-plea-alleging-lower-standards-of-privacy-for-indian-users/article33840452.ece

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