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WhatsApp privacy policy: SC refers matter to Constitution bench

LiveMint logoLiveMint 05-04-2017 Apurva Vishwanath

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday said that a Constitution bench will determine if WhatsApp’s user data sharing policy is violative of a citizens’ right to privacy.

A bench headed by chief justice J.S. Khehar said that a five-judge bench on 18 April will first decide if the case is related to privacy. The case is an appeal against a September 2016 ruling of the Delhi high court allowing Facebook-owned WhatsApp to enforce its new privacy policy.

Petitioner Karmanya Singh Sareen, a student, had sought the intervention of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) to regulate use of data that belongs to Indians.

The high court ruling delivered by Delhi high court chief justice G. Rohini had asked Trai to determine if an instant messaging service such as WhatsApp could be brought under the existing statutory framework.

On 25 August 2016, WhatsApp sent a notification to its users, asking them to accept recent changes in its terms and conditions. Many users agreed without checking the changes, and with that, unintentionally allowed WhatsApp to pass information about them to its parent Facebook for commercial use.

WhatApp’s new privacy policy allows it to collect and share information about its users with Facebook and all its group companies for the purpose of commercial advertising and marketing on its platform.

The apex court in August 2015 referred the question of whether an Indian citizen enjoys a fundamental right to privacy to a Constitution bench in the case challenging the legal validity of Aadhaar. The court is yet to set up a larger bench to examine the issue.

A Constitution bench comprises five or more judges of the apex court to hear cases that require interpretation of the Constitution.

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