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Petition Requests SC to Direct WhatsApp to Comply with India’s Data Protection Law: Report

The petitioners argued that the platform’s privacy policy, and how it shares and processes data with other Meta-owned entities, violates the law.

An application filed in the ongoing Supreme Court challenge against WhatsApp’s privacy policy has requested the court to direct the platform to comply with India’s recently passed data protection law, MoneyControl reported today. The petitioners argued that the platform’s privacy policy, and how it shares and processes data with other Meta-owned entities, violates the law. In a similar vein, the petition also requested the Supreme Court to direct WhatsApp to stop sharing data without obtaining consent from the user in question.

Under the Digital Personal Data Protection Act, 2023, personal data processing is only permitted when a user has given their consent for the same. Companies can also process personal data without consent when for “legitimate uses” under the Act—including epidemics, disasters, or State functions under any law. Companies should provide users with a “notice” when seeking their consent for data processing. Notably, if a user has consented to data processing before the law’s enactment, the company should serve notice as soon as “reasonably practicable”.

“It is respectfully submitted that when faced with a similar situation in the European region, where the General Data Protection Regulation i.e. GDPR had been enacted, but had not come into force, WhatsApp had submitted an undertaking to the authorities in Europe that till the GDPR comes into force, they shall not transfer any WhatsApp User data to any other Facebook company on a controller-to-controller basis for any purpose,” the petition said, MoneyControl reported.

The petitioners also requested that users be given the option to delete data stored on the platform prior to the law’s enactment and that WhatsApp appoint a data protection officer as required by the data protection law.

What’s this larger case about? The original case, filed in 2016 before the Delhi High Court, challenged Meta-owned WhatsApp’s updated privacy policy at the time—which allowed sharing of user data with other Meta entities. Petitioners argued that this would violate the right to privacy of WhatsApp users. After the High Court declined to grant the petitioners’ desired reliefs, they moved the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is currently hearing the case, including arguments emerging from WhatsApp’s 2021 privacy policy update, which confirmed that Facebook accessed WhatsApp business messages and metadata. WhatsApp subsequently stayed the policy until India’s data protection law came into force. In February this year, the top court directed the messaging platform to publicise its stance that Indian users can use the service without accepting the 2021 privacy policy update until India’s data protection law is presented in Parliament.

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