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"Privacy of people is more important than your money", SC issues notice to WhatsApp and Facebook

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New Delhi: "Privacy of people is more important than your money", remarked Supreme Court on Monday while hearing an application against the new privacy policy of WhatsApp and issued notice to WhatsApp and Facebook on this plea.

"People have grave apprehensions about loss of privacy. You may be a 2 or 3 trillion-dollar company, but people value their privacy more than your money," said a bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and comprising Justices A.S. Bopanna and V.Ramasubramanian told WhatsApp counsel and made it clear that "it is the court's duty to protect people's privacy".

The observations came as senior advocate Shyam Divan, representing the petitioner Karmanya Singh Sareen, which sought direction to restrain WhatsApp from implementing its new privacy policy in India and to direct it to apply the privacy policy which is made applicable to users in European region.

"They have come up with new differentiating privacy policy for the Europeans and different set of rules applicable to Indians," argued Divan. He added that till the time new data protection law comes into force in India, WhatsApp should not bring its new privacy policy.

The Chief Justice replied, we will issue notice in the matter.

Senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Arvind Datar, appearing for WhatsApp, strongly contested Divan's argument, saying that the high court is already seized of the matter.

Sibal said Europe has a different set of laws, and WhatsApp's new privacy policy for India is similar to the policy applicable in the US, Australia and other countries.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, said the right to privacy is a fundamental right and they cannot be compromised with the privacy of people.

Divan cited that WhatsApp has already delayed the implementation of its new privacy policy till May this year.

After a detailed hearing in the matter, the top court issued notices to WhatsApp, Facebook and the Centre in the matter and fixed further hearing after four weeks.

The Bench also said it will have to consider if a similar petition, pending before the Delhi High Court, is maintainable when a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court is already seized with the matter.

The instant plea was filed by the Internet Freedom Foundation in the case Karmanya Singh Sareen & Anr. v. Union of India & Ors., which is a petition filed in 2017 raising privacy concerns following the merger of Facebook and WhatsApp. In January 2017, the Supreme Court had referred the Facebook-WhatsApp privacy case to a five-judge bench.

(with inputs from agencies)

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