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SC seeks reply from Facebook, WhatsApp over users’ privacy

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Acting on a plea concerning the privacy of users on Facebook and WhatsApp, the Supreme Court on Monday issued notice to the social media giant and its messaging app directing them to file their replies in the matter within four weeks.

Notably, the petitioner has sought a stay on implementation of the new WhatsApp privacy policy—which has received severe criticism from users and the Indian government. In fact, many users of the WhatsApp app have already left the platform due to the new privacy policy to join rival messaging apps Telegram and Signal.

Senior advocate Shyam Divan, while appearing for the petitioner, argued that WhatsApp was differentiating between Indians and Europeans in terms of privacy policy standards. Notably, the same issue was raised by the Indian government with WhatsApp as well.

The Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde said, “You (Facebook and WhatsApp) may be a $2-3 trillion company, but people value their privacy more than money.”

The bench also comprising of Justice AS Bopanna and Justice V Ramasubramanian issued a notice to the Union government as well and sought its reply on the issue. It said that Indians have apprehensions regarding privacy concerns with respect to WhatsApp’s new privacy policy.

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Solicitor general Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, said that no compromise will be made with privacy as it is the right of the people of the country.

Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, on behalf of WhatsApp, said that there is no threat to privacy from the policy.

WhatsApp privacy policy

WhatsApp users were receiving in-app notifications about the new terms of service and privacy policy that were supposed to come into effect on February 8. The messaging app had clarified that users would have to accept the new terms or they will not be able to use WhatsApp. However, after facing flak, the company deferred implementation of the new privacy policy.

The messaging app, in a statement, had said: “We recently updated our privacy policy and we have received many thoughtful questions. With some of the rumors going around, we want to answer some of the common questions we have received. We go to great lengths to build WhatsApp in a way that helps people communicate privately.”

“We want to be clear that the policy update does not affect the privacy of your messages with friends or family in any way. Instead, this update includes changes related to messaging a business on WhatsApp, which is optional, and provides further transparency about how we collect and use data,” the company had said.

 

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