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Delhi HC dismisses Facebook, WhatsApp pleas against CCI order to probe privacy policy

Zee News logo Zee News 22-04-2021 Zee News
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New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Thursday dismissed pleas by social media platforms Facebook and WhatsApp, challenging India's competition regulator CCI's order directing a probe into WhatsApp's new privacy policy.

Justice Navin Chawla said that though it would have been "prudent" for the Competition Commission of India (CCI) to await the outcome of petitions in the Supreme Court and the Delhi HC against WhatsApp's new privacy policy, but not doing so would not make the regulator's order "perverse" or "wanting of jurisdiction".

The court said it saw no merit in the petitions of Facebook and WhatsApp to interdict the investigation directed by the Competition Commission of India (CCI).

The high court had earlier reserved its verdict in the case and observed that the order of the Competition Commission of India (CCI) does not reflect an investigation into abuse of dominant position and rather appears to be concerned with privacy issues of consumers.

The observation had come in response to the CCI's stand that it was not examining the alleged violation of individuals' privacy which was being looked into by the Supreme Court. The CCI had argued before the court that the new privacy policy of WhatsApp would lead to excessive data collection and "stalking" of consumers for targeted advertising to bring in more users and is, therefore, alleged abuse of dominant position.

It further said, "There is no question of jurisdictional error," adding that WhatsApp and Facebook's pleas challenging its decision were "incompetent and misconceived".

CCI also told the court that only after the investigation can it be determined whether the data collection by WhatsApp and sharing it with Facebook would amount to an anti-competitive practice or abuse of dominant position.

It had also contended that the data collected, which would include an individual's location, the kind of device used, their internet service provider, and whom they are conversing with, would lead to the creation of a customer profile and preference which would be monetised by way of targeted advertising and all this amounts to "stalking".

WhatsApp and Facebook had challenged the CCI's March 24 order directing a probe into the new privacy policy. The two social media platforms had contended that when the top court and the Delhi High Court were looking into the privacy policy, then CCI ought not to have "jumped the gun" and intervened in the issue.

They also said that the CCI's decision was an abuse of the commission's suo motu jurisdiction, claiming that the CCI in the instant case has "drifted far away" from the competition aspect and was looking into the privacy issue which was already being looked into by the apex court and the Delhi High Court.

They further contended that private conversations continued to be protected by end-to-end encryption and WhatsApp cannot read what people message each other. Most of the data generated belonged to WhatsApp as the only data provided by customers was their phone number which is required to register on the messaging platform, the added.

Earlier in January this year, the CCI on its own decided to look into WhatsApp's new privacy policy on the basis of news reports regarding the same.

(With Agency Inputs)

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