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Petition filed challenging WhatsApp privacy policy

The new policy verges on user surveillance, petition claims.

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KOLKATA: In the wake of controversy over its updated privacy policy, Facebook-owned messaging app WhatsApp is facing legal suit in India. The new policy verges on user surveillance and threatens India’s security, a petition filed against the messenger said. After a brief hearing today, the matter will be heard on 18 January, Bar & Bench reported.

With the new policy in place, WhatsApp can share data including location and phone number with Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger. It "virtually gives a 360-degree profile into a person's online activity", without any "government oversight", the petitioner said.

“WhatsApp has made a mockery out of our fundamental right to privacy while discharging a public function in India, besides jeopardising the national security of the country by sharing, transmitting and storing the users data in another country and that data, in turn, will be governed by the laws of that foreign country,” the petition read.

Justice Prathiba Singh of Delhi high court recused herself from hearing the case, taking objection to an email received by the court from Whatsapp. The matter has been ordered to be placed before another single-judge bench subject to orders of the chief justice.

There is no clarity on the extent to which data will be shared and what will be done with the sensitive information of users. WhatsApp users have to agree to the updated policy by 8 February to keep using the app. This less than transparent policy has sparked concerns among Indian users, with many moving to alternate chat apps like Signal and Telegram. In light of this, the company has issued clarification and run a print campaign to gain back user trust.

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