WhatsApp can’t share India user data before 25 Sept with Facebook, says court

The Delhi high court allowed Facebook-owned WhatsApp to enforce its new privacy policy from 25 September onwards


WhatApp’s new privacy policy allows it to collect and share information of its users’ with Facebook and all its group companies for the purpose of commercial advertising and marketing on its platform. Photo: AFP
WhatApp’s new privacy policy allows it to collect and share information of its users’ with Facebook and all its group companies for the purpose of commercial advertising and marketing on its platform. Photo: AFP

New Delhi: The Delhi high court on Friday allowed Facebook-owned WhatsApp to enforce its new privacy policy from 25 September onwards.

A bench headed by chief justice of Delhi high court, G. Rohini while allowing for the privacy policy as a whole issued directions to safeguard interest of users.

It was, however, directed that before 25 September the data of users, who continue to operate the instant messaging service, could not be appropriated by WhatsApp.

Protection of data would also be extended to those who delete their WhatsApp account as the court prohibited the messenger service from using their data for its commercial purposes.

Telecom regulatory body, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), was also asked to determine if an instant messaging service such as WhatsApp could be could be brought under existing statutory framework.

On 25 August, WhatsApp, pushed a notification to its users, asking them to accept recent changes in its terms and conditions.

Many users agreed without checking the changes, and with that, unintentionally allowed WhatsApp to hand over information about them to its parent company Facebook for commercial use.

WhatApp’s new privacy policy allows it to collect and share information of its users’ with Facebook and all its group companies for the purpose of commercial advertising and marketing on its platform.

This includes sharing of phone numbers and information on a user’s contact list in violation of the user’s privacy.

A challenge to this was brought to the Delhi high court following a PIL by two students, Karmanya Singh Sareen and Shreya Sethi, who alleged “violation of fundamental rights of users” by sharing confidential information under the privacy policy.

The petitioners contended that complete security and protection of privacy of the details and data belonging to users remained an extremely significant, essential and basic feature of this internet-based messaging service, but stands compromised under the new policy.

Defending the new policy, WhatsApp had told the court that it was not forcing anyone to use its app as users have the option not to use the messaging service.

Calling the consent sought by the user before accepting the policy a facade, the petition stated that most users are not equipped to comprehend the terms and conditions which makes such consent deceptive in nature.

“The privacy policy is in stark contrast to the privacy policy existing from July 7, 2012. In its first revised modification on August 25, 2016, Respondents (WhatsApp, Facebook Inc. and Facebook India Online Pvt. Ltd) have introduced this policy which severely compromises the rights of its users and makes the privacy rights of users completely vulnerable,” the petition, a copy of which Mint has reviewed stated.

The policy, which is likely to take effect on 25 September, allows users not to accept the new policy by making changes in their WhatsApp settings and un-checking on the box allowing for sharing of information.

When questioned on the issue of privacy of user data shared over the platform, senior advocate, Prathibha Singh, said that the issue was being specifically addressed by the Supreme Court for Aadhaar.

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