‘If A messages B…’: Supreme Court tells WhatsApp to give undertaking on data privacy

Updated on Feb 15, 2021 01:17 PM IST

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde said, "People have grave concern about loss of privacy."

'Give undertaking that users' private data not being shared', Supreme Court tells WhatsApp(Reuters File Photo)
'Give undertaking that users' private data not being shared', Supreme Court tells WhatsApp(Reuters File Photo)

The Supreme Court on Monday asked WhatsApp to give an undertaking on oath that private data of users is not being shared with any third person. The court has issued notices to the Centre, WhatsApp and Facebook over the privacy row and listed the matter after four weeks.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde said, "People have grave concern about loss of privacy. You (WhatsApp) may be a two trillion or three trillion company, but people value their privacy more than your money. It's our duty to protect people's privacy."

The bench said, "You make a statement on oath. It can't be done by sharing data of Indians.... What we have heard and read in the media, people think if A messages to B the whole circuit to whom the message goes is known to Facebook/WhatsApp."

The order came on an application by Karmanya Singh Sareen who had in 2016 moved the apex against the then privacy policy announced by WhatsApp, according to which it shared data with Facebook after the latter took it over. This matter is pending before a Constitution Bench.

This application challenged the recent privacy rule introduced by WhatsApp which required Indian WhatsApp users to agree to their new rule allowing the company to share data with third party companies.

Advocate Shyam Divan, representing the petitioner argued that Indian users are being treated unfairly as WhatsApp has a different privacy regime for European users.The application required the top court to order WhatsApp not to go ahead with its new policy till the Constitution Bench decides on it or the Centre comes up with Data Protection law.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for WhatsApp, denied that any private sensitive data is being shared and pointed out that the issue was pending before the Delhi High Court .

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta informed the apex court, "Regardless of whether there is a law or not, right to privacy is part of fundamental rights. They (WhatsApp) must protect the right to privacy. They must not share data."

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