Supreme Court issues notice to WhatsApp, Centre on data privacy


Supreme Court issues notice to WhatsApp, Centre on data privacy:

A plea in the Supreme Court has sought a ban on data transfer by WhatsApp to its parent organization Facebook in which it recognizes users’ right to data privacy.
The initial reaction of the court was to take it or leave it! But the petitioner has argued that constitutional rights cannot be subjected to take it or leave it.
But a bench led by Chief justice of India J S Khehar was convinced that the right to data privacy on social media sites must be examined irrespective of the fact whether the user has agreed to share data by pressing “ok” and “proceed”. Thus, providing free service does not entitle a subscriber to violate data privacy.

Concerns that were raised:

  • The court expressed concerns as on one hand the user wants to use the free service and on the other expressed concerns over his privacy.
  • The services provided are not illegitimate but they are provided by a service provider and are voluntarily opted by the user.
  • What prevented users to unsubscribe from WhatsApp and Facebook, when there exist privacy concerns regarding the data that the user shares with them.
  • The petitioner has also raised concerns on how social media can remain out of the current regulatory structure.
  • The bench also made a distinction between phone calls and WhatsApp, while the later was a free service the user must pay for the former.
  • It is alleged that violation of data privacy amounts to infringement of the basic constitutional rights of Art 19(Freedom of Speech and Expression and Art 21(Right to Life).

Directives of the court:

  • The court issued notices to Government, TRAI, WhatsApp and Facebook in this regard.
  • The constitutional rights under Art 21 and also the regulations of TRAI can be invoked to protect the right to privacy of citizens.
Though India does not possess a law on data protection, but still courts can protect our basic rights by invoking the fundamental principles of the constitution.

Global relevance on this issue:

  • Concerns have also been raised in Germany over data security. The German privacy watchdog has ordered Facebook to delete all data that it received from subsidiary WhatsApp
  • Unlike India, where there no specific privacy laws exist, Germany has a strict data privacy policy to deal with these matters.


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