SC on What­sapp Pri­vacy Pol­icy Mat­ter

Libertatem Magazine - - Contents - by Swar­nalee Hal­dar

Case Filed ByKar­manya Singh Sa­reen and Shreya Sethi


The case is filed in the back­ground of the What­sapp pri­vacy pol­icy change, and points out how the app will be col­lect­ing in­for­ma­tion of users, which will in­clude phone num­bers, names, user con­nec­tions, us­age and log data, trans­ac­tions, sta­tus, de­vice and con­nec­tion in­for­ma­tion, and sharing this with Face­book, which is the par­ent com­pany. The apex court on Jan­uary 16 had sought re­sponses from Cen­tre and Tele­com Reg­u­la­tory Author­ity of In­dia (TRAI) on a plea that pri­vacy of over 157 mil­lion In­di­ans has been in­fringed by so­cial net­work­ing sites — What­sapp and Face­book — for al­leged com­mer­cial use of per­sonal com­mu­ni­ca­tion. The Delhi High Court had ear­lier re­strained What­sapp, an in­stant mes­sag­ing ap­pli­ca­tion, from sharing with Face­book the user in­for­ma­tion ex­ist­ing upto Septem­ber 25, 2016 when its new pri­vacy pol­icy came into ef­fect. The High Court, in its ver­dict in Septem­ber last year had di­rected What­sapp to delete the in­for­ma­tion/data of per­sons who opted out of the ser­vice be­fore Septem­ber 25, 2016 and not to share it with so­cial net­work­ing site Face­book or its group com­pa­nies. The High court ad also di­rected the Cen­tre and TRAI to ex­am­ine the fea­si­bil­ity of bring­ing the func­tion­ing of in­ter­net mes­sag­ing ap­pli­ca­tions like What­sapp un­der statu­tory reg­u­la­tory frame­work. What­sapp had ear­lier in­formed the high court that when a user ac­count was deleted, the in­for­ma­tion of that per­son was no longer re­tained on its servers. Cur­rently the case is be­ing heard by a five-judge bench in the Supreme Court.


1. The pe­ti­tion is look­ing at the is­sue of on­line pri­vacy and asks for the state to step in. In­dia cur­rently has no spe­cific law deal­ing with user data pri­vacy. It points out that in In­dia with the in­ter­net gain­ing so many users, more and more peo­ple are com­ing on­line and us­ing these ap­pli­ca­tions.

2. The pe­ti­tion states, “It is also the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the State to guar­an­tee and en­sure the pro­tec­tion of the per­sonal and pri­vate data and in­for­ma­tion of these mil­lions of ci­ti­zens, when they use such modes of com­mu­ni­ca­tions to en­gage in con­ver­sa­tions and ex­change pri­vate and con­fi­den­tial data and in­for­ma­tion.

3. What­sapp, which is end-to-end en­crypted by de­fault, says no one can read mes­sages be­ing shared by users. In­ter­est­ingly, ac­cord­ing to an Eco­nomic Times re­port, Face­book lawyer KK Venu­gopal also told the court, “Those who find the new pri­vacy pol­icy irk­some or vi­ola­tive of their fun­da­men­tal rights, can quit,” adding that users have full free­dom to give up What­sapp and Face­book. What­sapp’s lawyers ar­gue the pri­vacy pol­icy change is in com­pli­ance with the IT Act.

Cur­rent Po­si­tion

The case will next be heard on 15th of May 2017. The Court, how­ever, said that it will look into this pre­lim­i­nary ob­jec­tion at the time of de­liv­ery of the fi­nal ver­dict.

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