WhatsApp’s privacy policy & Data Protection Bill have similar concerns: Centre to Delhi High Court


Sreya Kanugula

Centre made a submission to the High Court of Delhi in response to the petition filed against the recent update of WhatsApp’s privacy policy by advocate Chaitanya Rohilla.

It was made through Mr. Chetan Sharma, the Additional Solicitor General who stated that with regards to accepting the app’s updated privacy policy, the differentiation contrived for its Indian users and user’s part of the European Union was a real major cause for concern.

Indian users form a substantial part of Whatsapp’s user base, yet preferential treatment has been given to EU users, this is a major cause of concern. Reasonable and cogent policies must be put in place by WhatsApp,” Mr. Chetan said.

The pending Personal Data Protection Bill was then mentioned by ASG Sharma and that the Bill addressed most of the concerns that were similar to the ones in the current petition and laid down a policy with regards to this matter.

The single bench headed by Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva upon hearing this asked whether the government was actively looking into the said matter at hand.

ASG Sharma replied in the affirmative to this and elaborated that these concerns had already been concerns of the Ministry.

After the submission was noted on the grounds that the matter was being looked into at the head level and the reply from WhatsApp still pending to the communication made by the government, the date for re-notification was given as March 1st by the court.

The response of the petitioner who had challenged the policy was submitted upon the question posed by the Court the last time, as to what part of the policy was the petitioner objecting to.

It was noted that the petitioner had contentions to the aspects with regards to third party services and deemed it to be a serious threat posed to the security and democracy of the country since this information would be shared globally.

Reiterating the stand it took last time, the court stated that the application was voluntary and other applications now posed similar terms and conditions as well. Thus, the court stated that an explanation was required on how this particular application prejudiced Mr. Rohilla.

The High Court of Delhi asked, what was the ultimate relief being sought by him, to which Mr. Rohilla responded that he was seeking the court giving directions to the government on ensuring that guidelines would be laid down to prevent WhatsApp from sharing the users’ data with third parties and for a stay order on their recently updated privacy policy.

The Court asked if it could give an issue of such directions to the Centre in order to frame legislation around it.

In response to this, the advocate representing the petitioner Mr. Manohar Lal pointed out the existence of a High Court judgment given with regards to asking the Centre to frame a law upon a subject.

The court made the note that as per that judgment it was within the discretion of the Parliament to look at the matter at hand to create a law and that it wasn’t within theirs to direct.

The senior advocate representing Facebook, Mr. Mukul Rohatgi, interjected that clarification requests had already been written by the government to the corporation and that they will send them a response.

He also stated that “In the judgment, Data Protection Bill is being actively considered by the government. Matter is pending in Supreme Court.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal appearing for WhatsApp defended Mr. Rohatgi by stating that the authorities that regulate will have to make a decision upon the matter and that this process will come into place only after a law was created upon this.

A writ had been filed by the High of Court of Delhi as a challenge against the newly updated privacy policy of WhatsApp, the instant-messaging service app that the policy was being violative of Indian citizens’ right to their privacy and risking the security of the nation.

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