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WhatsApp Treating Indian Users Differently from Europeans: Centre tells Delhi High Court

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WhatsApp is treating Indian users differently from Europeans by opting out of its latest privacy policy, which is a matter of government concern, and the Center told the Delhi High Court on Monday that it is looking at the issue.

The central government told the high court that it was also a matter of concern that Indian users were “unilaterally” exposed by the instant messaging app to the shift in privacy policy.

Submissions were made by Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Chetan Sharma before Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva during the hearing of a petition by a lawyer against the current WhatsApp privacy policy owned by Facebook.

At the beginning of the hearing, on 18 January, the court reiterated that WhatsApp was private and that it was optional to download it or not. It was a private program. Downloading is not needed. The court explained and questioned why the complainant challenged the WhatsApp policy: Any other app has identical terms and conditions with regard to exchanging user information with others.

The court also noted that Parliament and the Government were reviewing the Personal Data Privacy Bill in the plea. ASG Sharma told the court during the hearing that WhatsApp prima facie seems to be treating users with a “all or nothing approach” by not offering Indian users the option to opt out of sharing their data with other Facebook firms.

As far as the government is concerned, while the privacy policy provided by WhatsApp to its European users expressly forbids the use of any information exchanged with Facebook companies for the purposes of the company, this provision is not included in the privacy policy offered to Indian people who form a very significant part of the user base of WhatsApp.

“This differential treatment is certainly a cause of concern for the government. It is also a matter of concern for the government that Indian users are being unilaterally subjected to the changes in the privacy policy,” the ASG told the court. This leverages WhatsApp’s social significance to force users into a bargain that may violate their personal privacy and information security rights,”This leverages the social significance of WhatsApp to force users into a bargain which may infringe on their interests in information privacy and information security,

He also told the court that while the problem was between two private entities – WhatsApp and its users – the reach and scope of WhatsApp “make it a germane ground that reasonable and cogent policies are put in place which is being done by the Personal Data Protection Bill and discussions are very much on” Sharma said the government was already investigating the problem and sent WhatsApp a message requesting some details.

Kapil Sibal, senior advocate, appearing for WhatsApp, told the court that the correspondence was received and will be replied. Thereafter, on March 1, the court cited the matter for hearing. The petition, by a lawyer, argued that, under the Constitution, the revised privacy policy violates the right of users to privacy.

The lawsuit argued that WhatsApp’s latest privacy policy requires direct access to the online activities of a user without any government oversight. Users can either approve it or leave the app under the new rules, but they can not choose not to share their data with other apps owned by Facebook or third parties.

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She has been there and done that. After graduating from Delhi University, she completed her diploma in Journalism from Bhartiya Vidya Bhawan, Delhi. Down the line, she completed her internship with National Herald Newspaper successfully,, and went on to Join Mainline Business daily, Business Standard. She also dabbled in image management and brand consultancy. She is a prolific writer on lifestyle entertainment, branding, lifestyle, travel, and politics.
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