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SC directs WhatsApp to give wide publicity to its undertaking in 2021 to Centre on privacy policy

By LawStreet News Network      02 February, 2023 09:20 PM      0 Comments
SC directs WhatsApp to give wide publicity to its undertaking in 2021 to Centre on privacy policy

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday told WhatsApp to give wide publicity in media that its users would not be bound to accept its 2021 privacy policy and also its functionality would not be affected till the new data protection bill comes into effect.

A five-judge Constitution bench led by Justice K M Joseph said that giving wide publicity to the WhatsApp undertaking would benefit those who have not agreed to the terms of its 2021 privacy policy. The bench asked WhatsApp to give advertisements in five newspapers regarding its undertaking given to the government.

WhatsApp, in a response to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology’s letter, had on May 22, 2021 assured that the messaging service will not limit functionality for its users if they do not accept the new privacy policy update.

In an interim order, the bench, also comprising Justices Ajay Rastogi, Aniruddha Bose, Hrishikesh Roy, and C T Ravikumar, said, “We further direct that WhatsApp will give publicity to this aspect to the customers in five national newspapers on two occasions”.

"We record the submission of the senior counsel for WhatsApp that they will abide by the terms of the May, 2021 letter till next date of hearing,” the bench further said.

The Centre’s counsel led by Attorney General R Venkataramani and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted digital personal data protection bill 2022 is about to be placed before the Parliament in second part of Budget session.

They said the bill would cover most of the aspects which are subject matter of petitions before this court and the matter may be taken up at a later stage.

Senior advocates Kapil Sibal for WhatsApp and senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi and Arvind P Datar for other respondents also supported the stand of the Union government.

The petitioners represented by senior advocate Shyam Divan, however, contended that law should not come in the way of addressing issues raised in the petitions.

The counsel also submitted WhatsApp for its customers in Europe stands in stark contrast with its stand taken here. They asked the court to hear the matter, maintaining that the privacy policy should have an option to opt out from data sharing.

At the end of the day-long arguments, the court passed an interim direction in a batch of petitions challenging the privacy policy of WhatsApp and fixed the matter for further hearing on April 11.

In their plea, Karmanya Singh Sareen and Shreya Sethi, claimed the contract entered into between WhatsApp and its parent Facebook to provide access to calls, photographs, texts, videos, and documents shared by users, was a violation of their privacy and free speech.

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