WhatsApp Responds to Delhi High Court’s Plea over the Company’s Privacy Policy

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WhatsApp, which is the most popular instant messaging platform, defended itself in the Delhi High Court, opposing a plea alleging that the privacy of its users has been compromised by the introduction of the new privacy policy by its parent company, Facebook.

WhatsApp confirmed in its response that all its regulations were in place and Facebook does not have any access to the user’s data as it secured by the end-to-end encryption.

whatsapp facebook

On August 25, WhatsApp had made many changes to its privacy policy for the first time from the time it was acquired by Facebook. This gave the users the option of sharing their account details and other information with the social networking giant. However, WhatsApp had given a period of 30 days to its users to opt out of the policy if they wish not to share any details with Facebook.

Proceedings with the Indian Judiciary

The report of the response was submitted to a bench comprising the Justice Sangita Dhingra Sehgal and the Chief Justice G Rohini, who had heard the PIL against the company’s latest decision to share its user data with Facebook.  Siddharth Luthra, a Senior advocate representing WhatsApp reported that all the government regulations are in place and the instant messaging firm does not share its user’s private data, messages, contents or photos with Facebook. He also mentioned that WhatsApp shares only the user’s name and contact number with Facebook, and the end-to-end encryption does not allow any access to other data. The advocate said that the company has access to only the user’s name and phone number, which is obtained by an online consent and said that the company is abiding by all regulations of the central government that have been imposed for the messenger apps and does not deal with any sensitive information.

The court had asked WhatsApp to file an affidavit for this before the 20th of September, explaining the legitimate position in regard to the concerns that have been raised in the writ petition. However, Pratibha M Singh, senior advocate appearing for the petitioners Shreya Sethi and Karmanya Singh Sareen, argued that the instant messaging service was indeed sharing all the data with Facebook even if the user’s had opted out of the new policy. The petitioners, who are users of WhatsApp, have made allegations against WhatsApp, Facebook India Online Pvt Ltd, and Facebook Inc.’s new privacy policy accusing it of compromising the rights of its users, which is a serious breach of policy.

Kriti Man Singh, the standing counsel of the central government, appearing for the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), responded to the notice that was issued seeking an explanation about the modification of the new privacy policy by saying that the consultation process is still going on in regard to this issue. The court had then said that they do not take a decision is not taken by September 25th then the concern of the petitioners will remain unresolved. The further hearing of the court is scheduled for September 21st.

In the brief hearing, the senior advocate representing WhatsApp contradicted the allegations made by the petitioners saying that teenagers were also using the WhatsApp messenger and so there is a possibility of misusing the data.

The plea had claimed that the recently introduced privacy policy is completely in contrast to the previous privacy policy that existed from July 2012. The initially revised and modified policy that was made on August 25th, 2016 was introduced by the Respondents (WhatsApp, Facebook India Online Pvt Ltd, and Facebook Inc.), which compromises the user’s rights and makes the privacy rights of its users highly vulnerable.

whatsapp privacy policy

The new privacy policy which comes into action from September 25th, has been sought after to change the basic, most valuable and essential feature of WhatsApp, which had commenced its operations since 2010, by threatening it unilaterally for doing away with the security of its users private data and details and for sharing the same with Facebook and its partnering companies for marketing and commercial advertising purposes.

The plea had sought direction for prohibiting WhatsApp, Facebook India Online Pvt Ltd, and Facebook Inc. from sharing any kind of data or details of the subscribers with any individual or body including Facebook and its group of companies.

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