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Delhi High Court dismisses Facebook, WhatsApp petitions challenging CCI order to probe privacy policy

WhatsApp, Parliament House India

The Delhi High Court on Thursday dismissed the writ petitions filed by WhatsApp and its parent company Facebook against an order of the Competition Commission of India (CCI) directing an investigation into the instant messaging app’s 2021 privacy policy change, reported Bar and Bench and LiveLaw. Now, the CCI can go ahead with its investigation of WhatsApp’s modified data sharing policy, which it had described as “neither fully transparent nor  based on voluntary and specific user consent”.

On April 13, the High Court represented by single-judge bench of Justice Navin Chawla, reserved its judgement in the matter. In March, the CCI had taken up the investigation into the privacy policy suo motu to ascertain “the full extent, scope and impact” of data sharing under WhatsApp’s new privacy policy and terms of use. The Commission had said that WhatSapp has prima facie violated provisions of the Competition Act.

During the hearing the CCI told the Court the issue is around the creation of a monopolistic market due to sharing of excessive data. It contended that WhatsApp was using its dominant position in the market to force users to share information with Facebook. This would seriously disadvantage new players who may want to enter the market because they may not be able to operate at the same scale, CCI added.

WhatsApp, which was being represented by senior advocate Harish Salve, had argued in the court that CCI had jumped the gun by starting proceedings against WhatsApp. Salve had claimed that CCI was examining privacy related issues, while the regulatory body only deals with competition.

Apart from this, a case against WhatsApp’s 2016 privacy policy change is pending before the Supreme Court in Karmanya Singh Sareen v. Union of India; another two case against the 2021 update are pending before the Delhi High Court, these were filed by Seema Singh (and others) and by Chaitanya Rohilla.

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