Facebook And WhatsApp Face The Wrath of Supreme Court of India

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WhatsApp introducing an updated privacy policy to share user data with its parent company Facebook met with an overwhelming vote of disapproval from its users all over the world.

Now, following up on the same, on Monday, the Supreme Court of India issued notices to Facebook, WhatsApp and the Central Government demanding clarifications regarding the instant messaging app’s changed privacy policy.

GOI, which previously wrote to the WhatsApp last month to withdraw their proposed changes to its privacy policy, told the court that the companies can’t share data of users – something which must be protected at all costs.

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To that, a bench comprising of Chief Justice of India SA Bobde, Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, referring to Facebook and WhatsApp, said: they may be $2-3 trillion companies, but people value their privacy more than money and that it is the court’s duty to protect user privacy.

Currently, both WhatsApp and Facebook are still maintaining their stance about doing no harm to user data and have refuted allegations of data sharing.

A senior lawyer Kapil Sibal who appeared for WhatsApp told the court that the WhatsApp policy is applicable everywhere expect the European Union which happens to fall under the governance of a special law.

This recent summoning by the Supreme Court is related to an application which was filed by Karmanya Singh Sareen and Shreya Sethi in their long-pending case before a constitution bench which challenged WhatsApp’s 2016 user policy.

Sareen and Sethi’s application stated that WhatsApp’s new privacy policy has been framed in such a way that results in a grave attack on the fundamental right of privacy of crores of the 400 million and more Indian citizens who use WhatsApp on a regular basis.

The application mentioned that WhatsApp is treating Indian users as ‘second class citizens’ as there is currently exists a regulatory vacuum in India which, in turn, is rendering an Indian citizen’s personal data/information vulnerable to being commercialised by corporations who obtain user-consent by being highly unambiguous and without providing a crystal clear explanation,

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Furthermore, the application also mentioned that on the other hand, the existence of robust regulatory governance is working effectively for Europe wherein WhatsApp is unable to implement the same privacy policy and thus the privacy of their citizens continue to remain protected without any disturbance.

Lastly, the application alleged WhatsApp of global discrimination which is detrimental to Indian citizens and thus it deserves to be injected by appropriated orders passed by the court.

The advocate for the petitioners Gaurav Sharma highlighted to the Supreme Court that the company has different policies for India and European countries as the privacy protection is a lot stricter in the later and that is something which should not be tolerated.

Currently, neither WhatsApp nor Facebook responded to any queries seeking their comments on this fiasco. Following the humongous user uproar caused by the revelation of WhatsApp’s plans to change their privacy policy, Facebook announced on January 15th that they are moving back the date on which users will be asked to review and accept the terms. 

It now remains to be seen, how will the social media behemoth navigate the extremely tumultuous situation it has found itself. We will keep you updated on all future developments. Until then, stay tuned.

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