Binoy Viswam: Right to Privacy should be protected from “giant corporations”

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Shweta Tambade

The National Payments Corporation of India(NPCI) has been sued into the Supreme Court plea filed by CPI MP Binoy Viswam.

Viswam is seeking a direction to the Reserve Bank of India(RBI) to lay necessary regulations to assure data of Indian citizens collected on UPI platforms is not exploited by companies like Amazon, Google, and Facebook.

The case will be heard in the fourth week of January 2021 and NPCI  has been asked to file its reply.

On Monday, it came up for hearing before the Supreme Court bench of Chief Justice S.A. Bobde, Justices A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian.

The ‘Pegasus-Whatsapp’ issue was referred to by Senior Advocate Krishnan Venugopal to argue that the system of WhatsApp was not secure and reliable so as to allow it to launch payment services.

Viswam’s counsel Venugopal said there were major privacy concerns with respect to WhatsApp as it does not have an different application for payments.

There is no two-factor verification system which is not safe.

Another problem is that data is being processed by companies abroad, and anti-corruption departments abroad have already moved against Facebook, Amazon and Google.

Critical data is being accessed and misused which is shared by the parent companies and is in violation of the Constitution Bench’s verdict on the right to privacy,” said Viswam’s counel.

The representative for WhatsApp, Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal asked how can anyone else question the decision once the RBI, which is the authority, has cleared the transactions?

CJI Bobde said, “But the petitioner has made serious allegations against privacy breaches.

“Krishnan Venugopal has made a serious allegation that your system (WhatsApp) can be hacked by something called Pegasus,” said the CJI.

Sibal ardently denied the allegation as “absolutely baseless“.

He said that such an allegation was not there in the writ petition and that the same was a baseless oral submission made across the bar.

In the petition, Viswam had prayed that Indians’ right to privacy should be protected from being misused by “giant corporations” for their “financial ends”.

He said, “Millions of Indians use UPI platforms for making payments and with the RBI and NPCI allowing the Big Four Tech Giants to participate in this UPI ecosystem without much scrutiny, sensitive financial data of the Indian citizens are at risk of being misused”.

The petitioner has further sought directions to limit Google Pay, Amazon Pay, and WhatsApp Pay from sharing information with their parent companies or any third party under any circumstance.

It has also recommended the Supreme Court to restrict WhatsApp from launching its full-scale payment service, WhatsApp Pay, in India till all requirements and norms are complied with.

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