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Centre urges Delhi HC to restrain WhatsApp from implementing new privacy policy

The government also stated the policy is not in alignment with IT rules 2011

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KOLKATA: The Union government has urged the Delhi high court to restrain messaging app WhatsApp from implementing its controversial new privacy policy, stating that the terms are not in alignment with IT rules 2011.

“WhatsApp may be restrained from implementing its new privacy policy and terms of service dated 4 January 2021 from 8 February 2021 or any subsequent date pending adjudication by this hon'ble' court," an affidavit by the ministry of electronics and information technology (MEITY) said.

The ministry also said in the court that the policy does not specify what type of sensitive personal data is being collected. WhatsApp has also failed to notify user details of collection of sensitive personal information under new guidelines, MEITY noted. Moreover, the policy does not leave an option to review or amend information, or withdraw consent retrospectively. Further, it does not guarantee further non-disclosure by third parties.

MEITY filed the affidavit in response to a petition filed by Dr Seema Singh, Meghan and Vikram Singh. The petition stated that the new WhatsApp privacy policy is violative of the fundamental right to privacy under Article 21. It does not even provide the users to have an option to protect their personal data by opting out of their policy, the petition contended.

Earlier this week, minister of state for IT and communications Sanjay Dhotre informed the Lok Sabha that the government has asked WhatsApp to review the proposed changes.

The next hearing in the matter has been posted for 20 April.

Earlier this month, in response to another petition on the issue, the Centre had sought more time to examine WhatsApp's new privacy policy which is slated to come into effect from 15 May. It had informed the court that the government is already working on a data protection bill. It also suggested that the high court should take note of the differential treatment given to users in regards with the new privacy policy as compared to the instant messaging application's policy in the European Union countries.

WhatsApp's new privacy policy was introduced on 4 January and was initially expected to come into effect on 8 February, but was later deferred to 15 May amid severe backlash from all corners. The app plans to make it mandatory for users to agree to its new data sharing norms, a key point of which is allegedly sharing data from WhatsApp business chats with Facebook. Since there was no opt-out option, there were apprehensions about privacy which led people to migrate to alternate messaging apps, like Signal and Telegram.

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