“Using the messaging service is a voluntary decision, we have not forced anybody to use it. Users have an option of opting out of it.” Siddharth Luthra counsel for WhatsApp (owned by Facebook Inc) said.
This includes sharing of phone numbers and information on a users’ contact list in violation of users’ privacy.
The policy which is slated to take effect on 25 September allows users to not accept the new policy by making changes in their WhatsApp settings and unchecking a box allowing for sharing of information (sharing is the default option).
On 31 August, two students, Karmanya Singh Sareen and Shreya Sethi filed a public interest litigation on the new policy alleging ““violation of fundamental rights of users” by sharing confidential information.
The petitioners contend 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.
Calling the consent sought by the user before accepting the policy a facade, the petition stated that most users were not equipped to comprehend the terms and conditions which makes such consent deceptive in nature.
They also argue that the option of not allow sharing of information was restricted to it not being used for Facebook’s advertisements and product experience.
In response to WhatsApp’s position, the chief justice of Delhi high court asked what would happen to information shared over the platform if a user chose to deactivate the service due to the new policy.
WhatsApp has been asked to file a short affidavit clarifying its stand on the new policy in terms of retaining and sharing user info shared across the platform.
Pleading it did not possess any power to address the issue, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India submitted that its role was restricted to making recommendations to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).
The case will be heard next on 21 September.