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Delhi HC Notice To WhatsApp On Plea Seeking Option To opt out of New Policy

By Priyanka Verma 
Updated Date

The Delhi high court on Wednesday issued notice to Centre and Facebook-owned WhatsApp Inc on a plea seeking direction to provide with an option to opt out of sharing their personal data with Facebook. The petition is against the new policy announced by WhatsApp which mandates sharing of personal data.

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A bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh issued notice to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology and WhatsApp seeking their stand on the plea by March.

The petitioners, Seema Singh, Meghan Singh and Vikram Singh, have contended that the new privacy policy indicates the “fissures” in Indian data protection and privacy laws.

They have sought directions to the ministry and WhatsApp to ensure that people using the messaging app are given the option to opt out of sharing their personal data with its parent firm Facebook and its other companies. They have also sought a direction to the ministry to frame guidelines, regulation or rules for safeguarding the privacy of the citizens from all the apps and organizations operating in India which collect user data.

The new privacy policy was announced by WhatsApp on January 4. It includes mandatory sharing of data with the parent company. The decision to share data was first floated in 2016, post WhatsApp’s acquisition by Facebook, but until last week, users already on the platform before the acquisition had the choice of not sharing that data. That choice no longer exists.

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The move has faced massive backlash globally – especially in WhatsApp’s biggest market India where it has 400 million users – with a surge being reported in other messaging applications such as Signal and Telegram.

Faced with user protests, WhatsApp started posting status messages in India about its commitment towards maintaining privacy of its users. The company said that the backlash is due to misperceptions about the upcoming changes to its privacy policy.

The status messages read “One thing that isn’t new is our commitment to your privacy,” along with a reminder that “WhatsApp can’t read or listen to your personal conversations as they’re end-to-end encrypted.”

A plea has also been filed in the supreme court seeking guidelines to safeguard the personal data and privacy of Indian WhatsApp users. The plea stated that the 2021 Policy of WhatsApp is highly invasive and has been unilaterally forced upon Indian internet users. It requested the top court to direct WhatsApp to provide the same standard of privacy protections to its Indian users as it is providing to users in the European Region.

WhatsApp has, meanwhile, moved back the implementation of its updated privacy policy till May.

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