'It is our duty to protect people's privacy': SC notice to Centre, Whatsapp on plea challenging new privacy policy

SC bench sought response within 4 weeks in a plea alleging lower standards of privacy for Indians in comparison to European users of Whatsapp.

Published: 15th February 2021 12:26 PM  |   Last Updated: 16th February 2021 08:42 AM   |  A+A-


For representational purposes. (File photo)

By Express News Service

NEW DELHI:  WhatsApp may be a $2-3 trillion company but people value their privacy more than money, the Supreme Court said, issuing notices to the US-based instant messaging firm’s reply on a fresh plea challenging its new policy to share users’ data with parent company Facebook.

The new privacy policy was originally scheduled to come into effect on February 8 but it was delayed by three months after users expressed concern about their privacy. The policy asks WhatsApp users to agree to its new data-sharing norms, a key point of which is sharing data from business conversations with Facebook. 

On Monday, a bench headed by Chief Justice of India S A Bobde noted that people’s privacy must be protected in view of the allegation that their data was being shared with other companies. It asked the respondents to respond in four weeks.

Indian citizens have grave apprehensions regarding the privacy concerns posed by the new privacy policy introduced by WhatsApp, it said. “You (Facebook and WhatsApp) may be a $2-3 trillion company but people value their privacy more than money.” The petitioners demanded that WhatsApp should not apply lower privacy standards for Indians and that it should be on the lines of what is followed in Europe.

On behalf of the petitioner, senior advocate Shyam Divan pointed out that WhatsApp was differentiating between Indian and European users in terms of privacy standards. He also alleged that huge metadata was being shared for profit.

WhatsApp denied differential treatment in its new privacy policy. “Europe has a special law (General Data Protection Regulations), which India didn’t. If India has a law, we will follow the same,” said senior advocate Kapil Sibal. 

What will not change according to WhatsApp
“The privacy and security of your personal messages and calls do not change. They are protected by end-to-end encryption, and WhatsApp and Facebook cannot read or listen to them. We will never weaken this security and we label each chat so you know our commitment,” the instant messaging says to users in a message on its website.   


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