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"No Urgency": Delhi High Court Adjourns Hearing In Pleas Challenging WhatsApp's New Privacy Policy Till August 27

Nupur Thapliyal
22 July 2021 7:24 AM GMT
Delhi High Court Refuses To Stay CCI Probe Against WhatsApps Privacy Policy

Observing that there was no urgency in the matter, the Delhi High Court on Thursday adjourned till August 27 hearing in the petitions challenging WhatsApp's new privacy policy.

A division bench comprising of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh adjourned the matter after hearing Advocates Manohar Lal, Meghan and Senior Advocate Vivek Sood appearing on behalf of the petitioners.

After hearing the prayers of the petitioners, the Court adjourned the hearing in view of the recent statement made by Whatsapp that it's privacy policy will not be enforced till the time the Data Protection Bill comes out and that it will need to fit in the law in such a situation.

"There is already a matter pending in the Court wherein they had made this statement. Should they be made to make such a statement again and again?" Chief Justice DN Patel orally remarked.

The statement was made by WhatsApp in an appeal by WhatsApp and its parent company Facebook Inc against a single bench order declining to interfere with CCI's investigation.

Earlier, the Central Government had informed the Court that WhatsApp is indulging in obtaining "trick consent" from its users to accept its contested privacy policy of 2021.

It had claimed that users who have not accepted the 2021 policy, are being bombarded with such notifications on a regular basis, with the overarching plan being to get the entire existing user base committed to the policy before the enactment of the Personal Data Protection (PDP) Bill - which will be the prevailing law on the subject.

On the other hand, WhatsApp had submitted that its newly updated privacy policy does not affect the privacy of personal messages (of its users) with friends and family in any way. Moreover, it was stated that the 2021 Update is not "mandatory", and that WhatsApp is not forcing anyone to accept the newly introduced update.

About Chaitanya Rohilla Plea

The plea filed by Advocate Chaitanya Rohilla states that the updated Policy gives the Company virtually a 360-degree profile into a person's online activity.

"This level of insight into a person's private and personal activities is done without any government oversight at present or regulatory supervision. Moreover, in the absence of a data protection authority, it leaves the users with a company's own assurances and privacy policies," the plea states.

Thus, he has urged the High Court to issue an injunction order, restraining Whatsapp from enforcing the updated privacy policy, with immediate effect. He has also sought guidelines/ directions to ensure that any change in Privacy Policy by Whatsapp is carried out strictly in accordance with the Fundamental Rights.

Inter alia, he has sought a direction upon the Central Government to exercise of its powers under Section 79 (2) (c) read with Section 87 (2) (zg) of the Information Technology Act and ensure that Whatsapp does not share any data of its users with any third party or Facebook and its companies for any purpose whatsoever.

About Dr Seema Singh Plea

The petition, filed by one Dr. Seema Singh states that the new WhatsApp privacy policy released on Jan 4, 2021 is violative of the fundamental right to privacy under Article 21, because while its old privacy policy which was issued on Jul 20, 2020 provided the users to opt in or out of data sharing with other Facebook companies, the new policy does not provide the users any option to protect their personal data by opting out of their policy.

The plea states that according to the new policy WhatsApp can share information with third party service providers and other Facebook companies. This data sharing arrangement, the plea argues, will be used by the WhatsApp and its holding companies for them to analyse and further share, thus leaving scope for use as well as exploitation. This, the petitioner apprehends could lead to privacy violations.

About Harsh Gupta Plea

The petition challenges WhatsApp's general terms of services as well as WhatsApp Business terms of services as violative of the provisions of the IT Act and the right to informational privacy which is implicit in the right to privacy recognized under Article 21 of the Constitution.

The Plea states that the information and data provided to WhatsApp by the users, as per the terms of services, is used by WhatsApp not only for rendering the services for which the users have enrolled, but also for sharing this information and data with the Facebook Companies without providing the option to the users to opt out of such arrangement.

It further submits that WhatsApp also collects various kinds of information and data of the users of its services not entirely relevant for providing the main services of the WhatsApp App i.e., messaging and communication.

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