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WhatsApp counsel says litigation initiated by telecom companies

Along with the bigger issue of privacy as a fundamental right, an issue now being heard by a nine-judge constitution bench at the Supreme Court is also a smaller matter of privacy, related to WhatsApp and its parent Facebook. This is being heard by the bench of Justices Dipak Misra, AK Sikri, Amitava Roy, AM Khanwilkar and Mohan M Shantanagoudar.

The petition relates to privacy concerns with issues relating to Facebook and WhatsApp in regards to the recent acquisition of WhatsApp by Facebook and about serious concerns being raised of Facebook using WhatsApp data to personalize content on its platform. The case is an appeal from a judgment of the High Court of Delhi where WhatsApp was permitted to share data after September 25, 2016 pursuant to user agreement.

On Friday (July 21) senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for one of the petitioners, submitted: “My privacy has to be protected.”

The bench commented: “Don’t take this to privacy issue.”

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for WhatsApp, submitted: “This is a litigation by telecom companies to stop WhatsApp, because WhatsApp is providing services free of cost. WhatsApp is secured. It is a fizzy PIL. Millions are there on this platform but only two people have problems and they have approached this court. We have filed an affidavit that we don’t share any data.”

Additional Solicitor General PS Patwalia, appearing for the Union of India, submitted that there is already a regulatory regime. “We will look into it. If there is any lacuna then we will work on it,” he said.

Sibal said: “These questions of non-state actors have come to picture in the nine-judge bench. Privacy will be an issue… If you search a trip from Delhi to Dubai on Google, you will immediately start getting ads in your browser. That is not breach of privacy. That sort of data is enhancing my search.”

The matter has been adjourned for September 6.

India Legal Bureau

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