Centre admits no regulatory mechanism for WhatsApp, Facebook, will work on ‘privacy concerns’
The Centre admitted before the Supreme Court on Wednesday that there was no regulatory mechanism to monitor popular messaging services such as Whatsapp, Facebook and Skype.
However, it said, the government was in the process of exploring a framework to deal with “privacy concerns of citizens” relating to the “Over-The-Top” (OTT) popular messaging services.
“Department of Telecommunication (DoT) is seized of the issue and shall finalize policy direction on various aspects of regulatory and licensing framework for OTT services and net neutrality after taking into account the TRAI recommendations on the subject,” the Centre said in its affidavit.
The document was submitted before the bench headed by Chief Justice JS Khehar, which is hearing a petition against Watsapp’s new policy under which data of a user can be shared with Facebook.
As the petitioners – Karmanya Singh Sareen and Shreya Sethi – have challenged the policy on the ground that it violates a user’s privacy and amounts to surveillance, the bench referred the petition to a constitution bench for April 18. Facebook objected to the reference, saying the dispute raised was between private entities entering into a contract with each.
“You can raise your concerns before the constitution bench,” the bench said. Last week the CJI had indicated that the matter might get listed during the summer break beginning on May 11. But, on Wednesday it asked the counsel appearing in the case to decide upon a mutual date on April 18.
The term OTT refers to applications and services such as WhatsApp, Skype, Viber, WeChat, Facebook Messenger, which are accessible over the internet and ride on telecom operators’ networks offering internet access services.
According to the Centre the rapid advances in technology had resulted in newer uses of internet. It has resulted into growth of a new breed of services known as Over – The – Top (OTT) services which needs to be covered under a regulatory mechanism.
“DoT shall finalize policy direction on various aspects of regulatory and licensing framework for OTT services after taking into account the TRAI recommendations on the subject… recommendations of DoT’s committee on net-neutrality,” the affidavit stated.