WhatsApp Privacy Policy: European users treated differently, govt tells HC

Earlier a petition was preferred by advocate Chaitanya Rohilla, which said the new privacy policy of WhatsApp violates the right to privacy, guaranteed under the Constitution of India.|Photo: Bloomberg
The central government on Monday informed the Delhi High Court that it is looking at issues related to data privacy stemming out of the new privacy policy of Facebook-owned messaging giant WhatsApp.


A communication had been sent to WhatsApp to respond to queries related to this matter, Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma told the court. He also mentioned that there was differential treatment between Indian and European users when it came to the new WhatsApp privacy policy and this was a matter of concern for the government.


“The privacy policy offered to European users (which gives them the option to opt out) is not given to Indian users. This differential treatment is a cause for concern,” said Sharma, according to law platform Bar and Bench.


“WhatsApp prima facie seems to be treating the (Indian) users with an all-or-nothing approach. This leverages social significance of WhatsApp to force users into a bargain which may infringe (upon privacy and data security),” added Sharma.


Earlier a petition was preferred by advocate Chaitanya Rohilla, which said the new privacy policy of WhatsApp violates the right to privacy guaranteed under the Constitution of India. The petition has sought a direction to the central government to exercise its powers under the Information Technology Act and ensure WhatsApp does not share any data of its users with any third party or Facebook and its companies.


The primary contention of the petitioner is that the new policy ‘virtually gives a 360-degree profile into a person’s online activity’, without any ‘government oversight’, and ‘takes away the choice’ of a user to not share their data with other Facebook-owned apps and third-party apps.


The petition has highlighted there is no clarity on the extent to which data will be shared. It raises questions about what will be done with the sensitive data of users.


Referring to the petition, Sharma said the concerned authorities are looking at the Data Protection Bill. He said it is being discussed by the Joint Parliamentary Committee. The submissions were made before a single judge Bench of Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva.


Last week in court, the counsel for the petitioner, advocate Manohar Lal, had contended that there should be some law, as everything that a user was doing was being analysed by WhatsApp. This included personal messages and browsing history.


The court had said that several other platforms also did the same and not WhatsApp alone. The senior counsel appearing for WhatsApp and Facebook had submitted that the private WhatsApp chats were completely encrypted. They had said the petition itself was not maintainable.

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