The Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) has asked Tata Motors Ltd to conduct an internal probe into the leak of price-sensitive information. It’s not the first entity tapped by Sebi; Axis Bank Ltd and HDFC Bank Ltd have been issued similar directions. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the entire affair is the role played by WhatsApp.

Insider trading is nothing new, of course. What’s different this time is that the information is alleged to have been circulated in WhatsApp groups. It has set up a clash between Sebi and WhatsApp, with potentially far-reaching implications.

WhatsApp has rebuffed Sebi’s request to share user-specific data, citing its privacy policy. But this isn’t necessarily the end of the matter. Sebi could take the matter to the courts. If it does so, it would be following in the footsteps of government agencies around the world that have tangled with social media platforms. This is a new frontier with valid concerns on both sides. Arriving at a modus vivendi between law enforcement and privacy rights will not be easy.

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