WhatsApp will put policy on hold till data law is enacted
WhatsApp, represented by senior advocate Harish Salve, told a bench of chief justice DN Patel and justice Jyoti Singh that it would not compel users to give consent for the new policy, but will continue to remind them about the update to the terms and conditions.
The policy had also caught attention of the Competition Commission of India (CCI), which launched an inquiry against which the company filed a court appeal.
“The update which triggered the inquiry of CCI is, for the present, we have voluntarily agreed to put it on hold…We will not compel people to accept…We will continue to display our updates from time to time to people who have not accepted. In addition, we will display the update whenever a user chooses relevant optional features, like when a user communicates with a business receiving support from Facebook,” Salve told the court.
The controversy relates to WhatsApp making it mandatory for people to consent sharing data about their interaction with businesses (not including the actual message contents) on the app with Facebook companies if they wanted to keep using the service.
“The commitment is that I will not do anything till the parliamentary law comes. Obviously, then if parliamentary law comes, you have to fit within that law. If Parliament allows me to have a separate policy for India, I will have it. If it does not allow me, then bad luck. I will then have to take a call,” said Salve.
But, the court remarked: “You are not implementing it but the policy is with you and any day it can come”. It asked Salve about the opt-out option being given to the European users and not to the Indian users.
He also said that WhatsApp has informed the Union government about the developments related to the implementation of the security policy after the latter sent a communication on May 13, asking them to withdraw the policy.
“Government has asked us to shut down the policy. We have said we will not enforce it till the Data Protection Bill comes out. That is open-ended because we don’t know when the Bill is going to come out.... Suppose the Bill allows me to do it, we will have completely different ramifications,” Salve submitted.
He said that the matter before CCI was only at the stage of inquiry and “nothing is going to happen even if steps are taken”.
“As long as policy stands, competition law issues persist... It is not as if by filing reply anything detrimental will happen until the court hears and disposes the matter,” Lekhi said, responding to WhatsApp’s contention that it should not be compelled to respond to information sought by CCI.
The court, while refusing to allow an impleadment application opposing WhatsApp’s plea, posted the matter for July 30.
Experts said WhatsApp’s latest stand did not have a legal foundation.