Privacy Policy case: SC asks WhatsApp to publicise undertaking given to govt in 2021

The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India has told WhatsApp to let people know that users who don’t agree with its new privacy policy, which went into effect in January 2021, won’t have their functionality limited.

WhatsApp’s data-sharing practices were criticized when it updated its privacy policy and terms of service in January 2021. Since then, they have gone back and forth with the rollout, limiting features for people who don’t agree with the policy and then changing their minds after the Indian Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) wrote to WhatsApp.

Later, WhatsApp informed the Delhi High Court that it will delay implementing its new privacy policy until the new Personal Data Protection Bill takes effect, after running into numerous obstacles in the process of doing so.

Supreme Court’s order on WhatsApp

Today’s hearing centered on a petition Karmanya Singh Sareen, and another student submitted to the Supreme Court opposing WhatsApp’s privacy policy. First, the timetable for the passage of the bill by Parliament is unknown.

Second, WhatsApp sold user data without permission to Facebook and other parties. This is a privacy invasion. Third, WhatsApp privacy laws differed between India and Europe.This is an invasion of privacy under international human rights law.

WhatsApp, on the other hand, argued that the bill will go into effect around July 2023 and urged the bench to reconsider the matter after that date. It was also stated that its current policy does not violate user privacy.

Following consideration of both arguments, the five-judge Constitution Bench, presided over by Justice K.M. Joseph, decided to republish the information in five national newspapers on February 15 and March 1, 2023, while preserving the option for users to reject the privacy policy.

WhatsApp must now publish in newspapers that users who do not agree with the privacy policy will still be able to use the application. This directive will be in effect until the April 11th, 2023, hearing.

We further direct WhatsApp to cause publicity to this aspect for the benefit of customers of WhatsApp by giving an advertisment in five newspapers on two occassions. Ads shall be full page.

 Digital Data Protection Bill 2022

Digital Data Protection Bill will be introduced at the Parliament during the second half of the ongoing parliamentary session which begins on March 3rd, 2023, says Union Government.

The Union added that the proposed Bill had taken into account both US and European privacy policies and had taken the necessary precautions to ensure Indian users were not subjected to discrimination. So, in the upcoming hearing, we can anticipate the Supreme Court’s judgment against WhatsApp.