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Delhi HC issues notice to Centre, WhatsApp on new privacy policy

The matter has been posted for next hearing on 19 March

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KOLKATA: The Delhi high court has sought response from the Centre and Facebook-owned WhatsApp on a plea directing the messenger to either roll back the privacy policy or give an option to opt out of it.

A division bench comprising chief justice DN Patel and justice Jyoti Singh has issued a notice to the government to respond with its stance on the issue by March. The petitioners, Seema Singh and Meghan Singh, said that the new policy highlights the gap in India’s data protection and privacy laws.

The petition prayed for a direction to the government to come up with a regulatory framework for protecting the privacy and data of citizens from all the apps and organisations operating in India. It added that the new WhatsApp privacy policy is in violation of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution which safeguards right to privacy.

“The fundamental shift in the policy of WhatsApp from its previous policy which was rolled out on 20 July 2020, is that it provided the users of the platform with a choice of sharing WhatsApp account information, however the new policy does not even provide the users to have an option to protect their personal data by opting out of their policy. It further mandated that the person either accepts the new policy in operation or will lose access to WhatsApp by 8 February 2021. The personal data of the users can be further shared and used by Facebook companies as well as third parties for their commercial purposes," the petition read.

The next hearing in the matter has been set for 19 March.

WhatsApp’s updated privacy policy has created a major controversy, with privacy experts and anti-trust bodies raising the alarm and users moving out of the platform and joining rival messaging apps like Telegram and Signal.

In the face of backlash, WhatsApp started posting status messages in India about its commitment towards maintaining privacy of its users. Eventually, it has been forced to postpone the implementation of the new privacy policy till May.  

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