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WhatsApp obtaining ‘Trick Consent’ for updated privacy policy: Centre to Delhi HC

By Priyanka Verma 
Updated Date

The Centre on Thursday sent a fresh affidavit to the Delhi high court amid its row with WhatsApp over the compliance of new Information and Technology (IT) guidelines.

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In the document, the Centre told the court that WhatsApp, an instant messaging service owned by social media giant Facebook, is “indulging in anti-users practices by obtaining ‘trick consent’ from users for its updated privacy policy,” news agency ANI reported.

“WhatsApp has unleashed its digital prowess to existing users and would force them to accept updated 2021 privacy policy, to transfer existing user base committed the updated privacy policy before Personal Data Protection (PDP) Bill becomes law,” it said in the affidavit, as per ANI.

In the affidavit, the Centre urged the high court to issue interim direction to WhatsApp to desist from any action of ‘push notifications’ onto users related to updated 2021 privacy policy. It also sought direction to ask WhatsApp to place on the record number of times such notifications are being pushed daily and their conversion rate.

“It is submitted that millions of WhatsApp existing users, those who have not accepted the updated 2021 privacy policy are being bombarded with notifications on everyday basis,” the Centre said in the affidavit. It also noted that these notifications are against the “very grain of prima facie opinion of the Competition Commission of India’s order.”

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The Centre also submitted that the current notifications being pushed by WhatsApp on its users, existing and new ones, is against the “very grain of prima facie opinion of the Competition Commission of India’s order” of March 24.

Earlier this year, WhatsApp updated its privacy policy in which it said that the platform will share some data with its parent company in instances when a user interacts with a business account. The company first proposed to implement it in January and said users who do not accept it will have their accounts deleted, but delayed it to May 15 after a backlash from users as well as the government.

On May 14, a WhatsApp representative told HT that users who had not lost any functionality till that point would not lose any additional features.

On May 26, WhatsApp moved the Delhi high court against the latest IT guidelines claiming that the requirement for them to adopt features such as traceability for identifying originators of messages violated the right to privacy under the Indian law and the company’s end-to-end encryption policy.

Invoking the 2017 Justice K S Puttaswamy vs Union Of India case against the traceability provision, WhatsApp said that it was “unconstitutional and against people’s fundamental right to privacy.”

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Responding to the lawsuit, WhatsApp said it was “an act of defiance,” and an “unfortunate attempt to keep the guidelines from coming into effect”.

It also clarified that the government will only seek information in cases of serious crime or are in the interest of national security and the normal functioning of WhatsApp will not be impacted for the users. None of the measures proposed by India will impact the normal functioning of WhatsApp in any manner whatsoever and for the common users, there will be no impact, the Centre had said.

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