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“Privacy Of People More Important Than Your Money”: Supreme Court Issues Notice On Plea Against WhatsApp’s New Privacy Policy

The Supreme Court on Monday issued a notice on an application seeking to restrain WhatsApp from implementing its new privacy policy in India and to direct it to apply the privacy policy which is made available applicable to users in the European region. 

By: Khushi Yadav, FIMT College, GGSIP University

The notice was issued on 15 Feb 2021 which is returnable within 4 weeks. The Union Minister of Electronics and Information Technology, Facebook, and WhatsApp became the respondents in the interlocutory application filed in a pending case, which was filed against the policy of the messaging platform in 2016. 

The CJI SA Bobde while issuing notice said“You must understand. Mr. Datar people have grave concerns about their privacy. You maybe two trillion three trillion company, but the privacy of people are more important than your money.”

The court gave the company to explain it’s stand by filing a counter-affidavit within 4 weeks concerning its new privacy policy. It further said that people’s privacy must be protected in view of the allegation that users are being shared with other companies. 

The bench said it will have to consider if a similar petition pending before the Delhi HC is maintainable when a constitution bench of the Supreme Court is already seized with the matter. 

The instant application was filed in the case of Karmanya Singh Sareen v. Union of India and others, which is a petition filed regarding raising privacy concerns following the merger of WhatsApp and Facebook in 2017. The Supreme Court then had referred the Facebook WhatsApp privacy case to a five-judge bench. 

Appearing for WhatsApp and Facebook Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal and Arvind Datar respectively submitted that the main petition, in this case, was filed against the 2016 privacy policy of WhatsApp. They argued that a substantive petition must be drawn and the 2020 policy cannot be challenged by merely filing an intervention application. 

They further urged the court to dismiss this application as the Delhi HC has already issued a notice on a petition challenging the WhatsApp policy. 

Advocate Kapil Sibal submitted “The earlier petition was filed against the 2016 policy the new application challenges the new policy of Jan 20 2008 are challenging the new policy without filing a substantive petition be that as it may but the Delhi high court is already considering”. 

We will issue notice in this we will see what to do the deli cases later. We also need to see the Delhi High Court can consider what the matter is pending before The Constitution bench,” the CJI said. 

Appearing for the applicant, Senior Advocate Shyam Divan told the Supreme Court that WhatsApp is discriminating between its Indian users and its users based in Europe. 

“One set of privacy standards applied to Europe and one different start of senders apply to Indians this happens when the personal data protection bill is pending. There is a huge differentiation between Europeans and Indians. It is reported in media. That government has sought explanation from WhatsApp on the new privacy P. The company itself has extended the deadline for new privacy policy to May 15 in this backdrop. I am seeking a nurse which is returnable before the 15th of May”, Divan submitted

Sibal responded to this and said, “My learned friend said what’s up, you differentiating between India and Europe the fact is that this policy is applicable to the rest of the world except Europe. Same policy is in US, Australia etc. in Europe. It is different because they have a special law.”

The CJI said, “We will tell you what we read and media people think that when a message is the whole thing that a messaged B is disclosed to Facebook”. 

To this Datar responded, “Messages are completely in corrupted even WhatsApp cannot see we can file an affidavit saying that no personal information is being stored or shared.” 

Recently, a bench headed by CJI Bobde refused to entertain a plea challenging the new privacy policy of WhatsApp and asked the petitioner to approach the Delhi HC, which is considering two petitions against it. 

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