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HC seeks Centre’s stand on PIL against new WhatsApp privacy policy

The Delhi High Court Wednesday sought the Centre’s response on a plea challenging the new privacy policy of instant messaging platform WhatsApp.

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 organisations operating in India which collect user data.

Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Chetan Sharma, who appeared for the ministry, told the bench that a similar matter was pending before a single judge before whom the government has stated that it was looking into the issue and has also sought certain information from WhatsApp.

The petitioners, one of them a lawyer, have said in their plea that WhatsApp has been changing its privacy policy from time to time and users were always given the option to opt out of the same and access to the app was never denied.

However, on January 4 it came out with a new privacy policy which has been made mandatory for Indian users who would be denied access to the app if they do not accept the new terms and conditions, they have said.

European users, on the other hand, have the option to opt out of the policy and they would not be denied access to the app if they do so, the petition has said.

It has sought a direction to WhatsApp to roll back its new policy or in the alternative provide an option to the users, including those who have already agreed to it, to opt out of the same.

The petitioners have also sought a direction to the government to formulate social media intermediary guidelines. PTI

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