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‘Delete WhatsApp if it compromises data’: Key takeaways from hearing on WhatsApp’s privacy policy in Delhi HC

We missed this earlier: The Delhi High-Court on Monday told petitioners who challenged WhatsApps’ new privacy policy that users can choose to delete the app if they feel it compromises their data. The court acknowledged WhatsApp’s decision to delay the roll-out of the new privacy policy and therefore adjourned the matter to later this month,  according to tweets by Bar and Bench.

While global messaging platform WhatsApp has delayed the roll-out of its new privacy policy in India, the Facebook owned entity has been taken to court over the new privacy terms and conditions. The petition states that the new privacy police violates Indians’ Right to Privacy under the Constitution of India and takes away the choice of users’ who do not want their data shared with other Facebook apps,

WhatsApp’s updated privacy policy  contains language on how user data is processed by the company. It also has new sections on how businesses can use WhatsApp to communicate with each other, likely in line with Facebook’s push to generate more revenue from the messaging app. Additionally, the policies deal with connections within the Facebook’s “family of apps and products”. In an earnings call in October 2020, CEO Mark Zuckerberg had indicated a “connected interoperable system” where WhatsApp, Instagram and and Messenger app could be used interchangeably. Only recently, Messenger app and Instagram were integrated with a “cross-messaging” feature.

While WhatsApp reiterated that its service is fully end-to-end encrypted and and neither it nor Facebook can see messages, the petition contends that new policy makes a “mockery out of our fundamental right to privacy”. It also jeopardises India’s national security by “sharing, transmitting and storing the users data in some another country and that data in turn will be governed by the laws of that foreign country,” it said.

On Monday, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology wrote a letter to WhatsApp CEO Will Cathcart asking it to withdraw the proposed changes to its terms and conditions.

The court did not issue a notice in the case and adjourned the matter till January 25.

‘WhatsApp is a private app, don’t join it’: Delhi HC

A single-judge Bench of Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva says if that if the petitioner WhatsApp will compromise their data, they can delete it. ““It is a private app. What is your grievance? Don’t join it,” the court said during the hearings. “I can’t understand your concern. If you feel WhatsApp will compromise data, delete WhatsApp,” it said.

Other apps also collect data: Court 

The judge also asked the counsel appearing for the petitioner to provide details on what kind of data was being compromised by WhatsApp. “There are two issues. One is that your personal messages are looked into. Other is browsing history,” the Court said, adding that “Not just WhatsApp but all platforms do that”. “Don’t use them. Do you use Google maps?..Do you know Google Maps also shares data… I doubt if you’ve read the terms and conditions of any of the apps that you use,” the court said.

Chats are encrypted, petition not maintainable: WhatsApp, Facebook

Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, representing Facebook, said that all messages and chats on the platform is completely encrypted. “Private chats are completely encrypted. The change (in privacy policy) is for business WhatsApp.. All social chats between friends, relatives whatever is completely encrypted,” Rohatgi said.

Senior Advocates Kapil Sibal and Arvind Datar, representing WhatsApp and Facebook respectively, both said that the petition is not maintainable. Sibal also said “Users don’t have to message with businesses if they don’t want to”.

WhatsApp has 360-degree profile on users: Petitioner

The petitioner told that the court that the privacy policy takes away user’s choice in terms of Facebook and its other apps gaining access to WhatsApp data. Under the new policy WhatsApp “virtually gives a 360-degree profile into a person’s online activity” without any “government oversight”, the petitioner asserted. They said that there is no clarity on extent to which data will be shared and what will be done with the sensitive data of users.

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