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The plea to the Supreme Court to bring in the government to oversee data-sharing on social networking sites and instant messaging services raises crucial issues. The petitioners argue that WhatsApp sharing data with its parent company Facebook violates constitutional freedoms and the government must frame a privacy law preventing corporate entities from exploiting user data for commercial gains.

This is a double-edged sword. Governments must protect the rights of citizens—but bringing Internet platforms under state purview has the potential to undermine Internet freedom. And Chief Justice J.S. Khehar noted that individuals willingly give up their freedoms when they agree to the terms and conditions set by social network and messaging services. But others argue that these services have become so ubiquitous that staying out of the network isn’t really a choice.

There are no easy answers here—only difficult compromises that lawmakers and citizens in India must grapple with, as their counterparts around the world are doing.

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