New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice to the Centre, WhatsApp and its owner Facebook on a plea challenging the messaging app’s privacy policy.

A bench comprising chief justice J.S. Khehar and D.Y. Chandrachud heard a special leave petition seeking government regulation of the privacy policy of WhatsApp.

“It is a serious concern that data of Indian users is stored on American servers. But how can the government intervene when a private company is providing a service and people are voluntarily using it," the bench said in an oral observation.

Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing on behalf of petitioner Karmanya Singh Sareen said the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has a duty to regulate use of data that belongs to Indians.

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“With 155 million users, WhatsApp is now a public utility and the government has a duty to protect rights of its citizens," Salve said.

“Private companies are surely going to exploit the fact that this country has no definitive ruling on whether privacy is a fundamental right," he added, urging the court to hear the case urgently.

The special leave petition flows from a September 2016 ruling of the Delhi high court allowing Facebook-owned WhatsApp to enforce its new privacy policy.

The high court ruling delivered by chief justice G. Rohini had asked Trai to determine if an instant messaging service such as WhatsApp could be brought under the existing statutory framework.

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On 25 August 2016, WhatsApp sent 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 about its users with Facebook and all its group companies for the purpose of commercial advertising and marketing on its platform.

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