SC Seeks Govt Reply on Facebook, WhatsApp Users’ Data Privacy

The top court has also sought WhatsApp and Facebook’s responses in the matter. 

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Tech News
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The top court has also sought WhatsApp and Facebook’s responses in the matter. (Photo: iStock)

The Supreme Court on Monday sought responses from the government and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on a plea seeking a privacy policy to stop commercial exploitation of communication on social networking platforms like WhatsApp and Facebook.

An SC bench comprising Chief Justice JS Khehar and Justice DY Chandrachud also issued notice to WhatsApp and Facebook and sought their responses within two weeks.

Khehar and Chandrachud told the petitioner: “It is a private person extending private service. You take it or leave it — that is your right.”

In September 2016, the Delhi High Court had told WhatsApp to delete all personal data belonging to people who delete the app from their devices. The judges also asked WhatsApp to not share any information with Facebook after the app is deleted.

It also said the service shouldn't share information of existing WhatsApp users with Facebook until 25 September. This was after WhatsApp had announced on 25 August that the data of users globally would be shared with Facebook from then on.

There is apparently no law in India that protects the personal information of individuals.

While certain provisions of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (IT Act), and the Information Technology (Reasonable Security Practices and Procedures and Sensitive Personal Data or Information Rules), 2011, (IT Rules) exist, these merely scratch the surface as they apply only to information on computer resources (data from servers, smartphones and all other electronic devices), according to Bengaluru-based law firm Trilegal, FactorDaily reported.

The bench sought the assistance of Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi in hearing the plea, which alleged that the social networking platforms compromise the privacy of interpersonal communication of over 150 million people in the country.

Senior advocate Harish Salve alleged that privacy of citizens has been infringed by the social networking platforms, which amounted to infringement of Articles 19 (freedom of speech and expression) and 21 (right to life) of the Constitution.

‘Right to life’ includes the ‘right to privacy’, Salve said.

(With inputs from PTI and FactorDaily.)

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