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Publicise users aren't bound by 2021 privacy policy: SC to WhatsApp

Publicise users arent bound by 2021 privacy policy: SC to WhatsApp

New Delhi: In India, the instant messaging platform WhatsApp was directed by the Supreme Court to give broad publicity in the media that users need not to accept its 2021 privacy policy. It also directed the platform to inform users that the app's functionality would not be affected till the new data protection bill comes alive, IANs report.

In May 2021, WhatsApp, in response to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology's letter, assured that the messaging service would not limit functionality for its users if they did not accept the new privacy policy update.

A five-judge constitution bench headed by Justice K.M. Joseph observed that giving wide publicity to the WhatsApp undertaking would benefit those who have not agreed to the terms of its 2021 privacy policy. The top court asked WhatsApp to give advertisements in five newspapers regarding its undertaking given to the government.

The bench - also comprising Justices Ajay Rastogi, Aniruddha Bose, Hrishikesh Roy, and C T Ravikumar - said: "We further direct that WhatsApp will give publicity to this aspect to the customers of WhatsApp in five national newspapers on two occasions."

The bench said it had recorded the stand taken in response to the government, and "we record the submission of the senior counsel for WhatsApp that they will abide by the terms of the letter till the next date of hearing".

The apex court noted that the Centre's counsel has brought to its notice that a digital personal data protection bill 2022 is about to be placed before the Parliament, and it is their contention that the bill would cover most of the aspects which are the subject matter of petitions before this court and the matter may be taken up at a later stage. This request was echoed by WhatsApp counsel too.

However, the petitioners' counsel vehemently contested this aspect and submitted that the law should not come in the way of addressing issues raised in the petitions before the apex court. The petitioners' counsel said the stand by WhatsApp for its customers in Europe stands in stark contrast with its stand taken here and urged the court to hear the matter. The petitioners' counsel stressed that the privacy policy should have the option to opt out of data sharing.

After hearing day-long arguments, the apex court passed an interim direction in a batch of petitions challenging the privacy policy of WhatsApp and scheduled the matter for further hearing on April 11.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal represented WhatsApp, and senior advocate Arvind Datar represented Meta. Senior advocates Shyam Divan and K.V. Viswanathan represented the petitioners' along with other counsel.

The top court was hearing petitions, which included a plea filed by two students, Karmanya Singh Sareen and Shreya Sethi, against the contract entered into between WhatsApp and its parent Facebook to provide access to calls, photographs, texts, videos, and documents shared by users. The petitioners claimed it was a violation of their privacy and free speech.

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TAGS:WhatsApp privacy policy Supreme Court 
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