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Centre alleges WhatsApp 'tricking' users into accepting new privacy policy

Centre alleges WhatsApp tricking users into accepting new privacy policy

New Delhi: In a fresh affidavit, the Centre on Thursday told the Delhi High Court that WhatsApp is indulging in anti-user practices by obtaining 'trick consent' for its updated 2021 private policy ahead of the pending Personal Data Protection (PDP) Bill becoming law.

The Centre claimed that the messaging platform is bombarding users with push notifications on an everyday basis and forcing them to accept the updated privacy policy.

The government also asked the High Court to restrain the messaging app from pushing notifications to the users.

"It is submitted that millions of WhatsApp existing users, those who have not accepted the updated 2021 privacy policy are being bombarded with notifications on an everyday basis," the Centre claimed in the affidavit citing a screenshot of the push notification.

In its additional counter submitted to the High Court, the Centre added that WhatsApp is currently having access to the personal, sensitive personal and business data of hundreds of millions of Indian users and has also acquired a role that an "essential digital service" during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The affidavit, therefore, stressed to the High Court that it is imperative to examine the WhatsApp privacy policy the touchstone of privacy principles as laid down in K.S. Puttaswamy verdict.

The Centre added the Competition Commission of India (CCI) has formed a prima facie opinion that WhatsApp has contravened the provisions of Section 4 of the Competition Act, 2002 "through its exploitative and exclusionary conduct, in the garb of policy update".

The CCI had said a thorough and detailed investigation is required to ascertain the full extent, scope and impact of data sharing through the involuntary consent of users.

"The current notifications as being pushed by respondent no.1 on its users whether existing or new is against the very grain of prima facie opinion of the CCI order," added the affidavit.

The affidavit was filed on a PIL by Seema Singh, Meghan and Vikram Singh seeking a direction to the Centre to order WhatsApp to either roll back the new privacy policy or provide an opt-out option to its users.

The Centre had said the new updated privacy policy violated the Information Technology Rules of 2011 and WhatsApp may be restrained from implementing the new policy till the challenge to the validity of its policy is finally decided.

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