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PIL against WhatsApp's new privacy policy in Delhi HC, says 'violates fundamental rights'

PIL against WhatsApp's new privacy policy in Delhi HC, says 'violates fundamental rights'

The petitioner has contended that WhatsApp rolled out its new policy without seeking permission from the government, and added it will violate the fundamental rights of Indian users

The PIL has sought an immediate stay on the new privacy policy of WhatsApp The PIL has sought an immediate stay on the new privacy policy of WhatsApp

A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has been filed before the Delhi High Court against WhatsApp's new privacy policy, that argues that it violates the right to privacy of an individual.

The plea filed by Chaitanya Rohilla has said that WhatsApp and Facebook have already been sharing users' data with the third party in unauthorised manner. And now, with the updation in its policy, WhatsApp will be able to look into the virtual activities of the users.

The petitioner has contended that WhatsApp rolled out its new policy without seeking permission from the government, and added it will violate the fundamental rights of Indian users.

The petition has claimed that WhatsApp has essentially taken away the choice users had till now to not share their data with Facebook and third-party apps. In fact, the messaging app had made it mandatory for its users to accept the new policy by February 8, or else the services and accounts of the respective users would be terminated.

The petitioner has expressed fear that the new policy will give Facebook, WhatsApp and third-party apps a high level of insight into a person's private activities without any government oversight and in the absence of a data protection authority.

The PIL has sought an immediate stay on the new privacy policy of WhatsApp and has also appealed Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology to ensure that WhatsApp's policies don't violate Indian law.

The petitioner has pointed to the disparity in the updated privacy policy as it won't apply to the European Region due to the strict GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation). The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe is a stringent and robust law protecting the privacy and data of its people, unlike India where the Personal Data Protection bill is yet to be enacted into law.

Rohilla has said WhatsApp and Facebook are trying to arbitrarily enforce their policy in India as they see vulnerability in the absence of any comprehensive law in this domain.

The High Court is yet to fix a date of hearing on the petition.

WhatsApp, on January 4, informed users about the changes in its terms of service and public policy. This led to a user backlash and triggered memes on the internet over WhatsApp's alleged sharing of user information with Facebook. Many users have also started shifting to rival platforms, and apps like Telegram and Signal have seen millions of downloads globally in the immediate aftermath of the event.

Messaging service Telegram has crossed the 500-million subscriber mark globally with an addition of 25 million new users in the last few days. While it did not specify India-specific user numbers, Telegram said 38 per cent of the new users are from Asia.

Similarly, Signal had said the Indian market has "completely exceeded all expectations" and that the growth in the past few days has driven the company to add capacity to meet the burgeoning demand.

Also read: BT Buzz: Why WhatsApp's clarification on privacy policy is misleading

Also read: WhatsApp's loss is Telegram's gain; app sees 25 million new users in 3 days