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Whatsapp privacy case deferred to 18 Jan; judge recuses herself from hearing PIL

WhatsApp had informed users about the changes in its terms of service and public policy, through an in-app notification last week. (File Photo: Reuters)
WhatsApp had informed users about the changes in its terms of service and public policy, through an in-app notification last week. (File Photo: Reuters)

  • Earlier this month, the messaging app updated its terms of service and informed users that information from interactions with businesses will henceforth be shared with Facebook and the businesses themselves

NEW DELHI: Justice Prathiba M Singh of Delhi high court on Friday recused herself from hearing a public interest litigation challenging the new WhatsApp privacy policy terms. As a result, the matter will now be heard by another bench on Monday, 18 January.

The revised privacy policy is in violation of fundamental rights, the plea has said. It has sought an injunction from the Delhi HC restraining WhatsApp from enforcing the updated policy.

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Earlier this month, the messaging app updated its terms of service and informed users that information from interactions with businesses will henceforth be shared with Facebook and the businesses themselves. As per the new terms of service, WhatsApp may use the information to “operate, provide, improve, understand, customize, support and market" its services and offerings to users. WhatsApp has reiterated that personal conversations do not figure in this.

“And if WhatsApp is stating that it is now going to use the users data and share it with the largest social network in the world, which is embedded on every second website and collect data from there as well, the integration of this data will essentially mean that the user is perpetually under the surveillance of the Facebook group of companies," the plea said.

According to the plea, WhatsApp changed its privacy policy in "the most arbitrary manner and had made it compulsory for its users to accept its terms and conditions, failing which the accounts and services would be terminated after 8 February, 2021, for the respective user."

Filed by advocate Chaitanya Rohilla, the petition sought guidelines or directions to ensure that any change in privacy policy by the messaging app is carried out in accordance with the fundamental rights guaranteed in Part-III of the Constitution till such time that rules or guidelines are framed by the Centre.

It also sought directions to the ministry of electronics and information technology to ensure that Whatsapp does not share any data of its users with any third party or Facebook and its companies for any purpose whatsoever.

“It virtually gives a 360-degree profile into a person’s online activity. This level of insight into a person’s private and personal activities is done without any government oversight at present or regulatory supervision. Moreover, in the absence of a data protection authority, it leaves the users with a company’s own assurances and privacy policies," the plea said.

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