NEW DELHI :
The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday issued notice to the central government on a plea by Facebook and its unit WhatsApp to transfer to the top court all petitions related to linking Aadhaar to individual profiles pending before different high courts.
The apex court also issued notice to Google, Twitter, YouTube and other social media companies seeking a response by 13 September as to whether the petitions should be transferred or not.
The government’s response on the issue is crucial given that the Supreme Court has upheld the right to privacy as a fundamental right in 2017.
During Tuesday’s hearing, the apex court bench of Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose observed that the case seems to be a conflict between the right to privacy and right to govern the country and the court has to maintain a balance between the two.
Facebook has in its plea filed last week contended that there are four petitions, including two in the Madras high court and one each in the Bombay high court and Madhya Pradesh high court, which contained similar prayers.
The plea said the Supreme Court should hear the petitions in the high court collectively to avoid conflicting judgements.
Senior advocates Mukul Rohatgi and Kapil Sibal, appearing for Facebook and WhatsApp, respectively, stated that any judgement on this issue would have a global effect as these are international companies with operations in 150 countries. They argued that only the apex court should decide whether data of individual members should be shared with probe agencies in a criminal investigation.
Facebook also contended that sharing of Aadhaar details would infringe on the privacy of users.
It also submitted in its petition that it cannot share Aadhaar number with a third party as the content on WhatsApp was end-to-end encrypted and they too don’t have access to it.
Attorney general K.K. Venugopal, appearing for the Tamil Nadu government, told the bench that the Madras high court has conducted 18 hearings so far and should be allowed to conclude the argument and deliver the verdict in the cases.
The Supreme Court bench hearing the petition said cases related to linking of social media user profiles with their 12-digit Aadhaar number pending before the Madras high court will continue but no final order will be passed.
Venugopal referred to the Blue Whale Challenge game and said several young lives were lost because of directions given by the curator. Governments did not have any clue about the curator in the Blue Whale game.
Both Facebook and WhatsApp told the bench that the Blue Whale game has nothing to do with them and if data is shared with third parties, it would be a breach of privacy.
The apex court on Monday was told by the Tamil Nadu government that social media profiles of users need to be linked with their Aadhaar numbers to check circulation of fake, defamatory and pornographic content, as well as material that is anti-national or related to terror activities.