Right to Privacy: Data sharing by Google, WhatsApp, Facebook can now be questioned
New Delhi: The Supreme Court ruling on Thursday, upholding the right to privacy as a fundamental right and extending it to include informational privacy, may impact the collection and sharing of data by technology giants such as Google, Facebook, Apple and WhatsApp in India.
The verdict potentially arms citizens with the right to question how popular apps and services use and share user data.
The nine-judge bench in its ruling discussed the issue in detail and recognized informational privacy as an aspect of the right to privacy. It also highlighted the dangers of sharing information using the various technological means at our disposal.
The judgment gives citizens the right to directly approach the court if their right to privacy is under threat. It could also provide legal backing for petitions in courts on how popular apps and services are handling, saving and potentially sharing user data.
Recognizing the importance of informational privacy, Chief Justice J.S. Khehar and Justices D.Y. Chandrachud, R.K. Agrawal, S. Abdul Nazeer said, “Informational privacy is a facet of the right to privacy. The dangers to privacy in an age of information can originate not only from the state but from non-state actors as well.”
In this context, a five-judge constitution bench is hearing a plea regarding whether WhatsApp’s user data-sharing policy is violative of citizens’ right to privacy.
The central government is currently in the process of drafting a data protection legislation and has appointed an expert group headed by former Supreme Court judge B.N. Srikrishna for it.
While the ruling places the onus on the government to devise a robust data protection law aimed at striking a balance between individual interests and legitimate interests of the state, it puts private companies engaging in collecting and using citizen’s data under scrutiny in the meantime.
According to a data expert, who did not wish to be named, till now, there was no way to regulate private enterprises who access messages, notifications and contacts without the customers’ knowledge.
Recognition of the right to privacy as a fundamental right and its applicability against these private companies as against the state will be a major game changer.
Currently, data protection provisions are part of the Information Technology (Reasonable Security Practices and Procedures and Sensitive Practices and Procedures and sensitive personal data or information) Rules of 2011 for secure storage of personal data online.