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Centre raises concerns about WhatsApp Policy bias to HC

The Centre Government on Monday raised its concerns about the “differential treatment” WhatsApp accords its Indian users compared to European ones on the new data sharing policy to the Delhi High Court. These changes will allow the messaging app to share more user data with parent company Facebook and its companies.

Chetan Sharma, Additional Solicitor General said, “Indian users are the substantial part of WhatsApp’s user base, yet preferential treatment has been given to EU [European Union] users, this is a major cause of concern,”. “Reasonable and cogent policies must be put in place by WhatsApp.”

WhatsApp had announced changes to its privacy policy on January 4.  Many users raised questions of how the company could and was forcing users to agree to share their information with Facebook if they want to keep using the service; Facebook which is WhatsApp’s parent company. For whatsoever reason, if the users don’t agree with the policies they won’t be able to access their WhatsApp Account.

During Monday’s hearing, Sharma stated that WhatsApp seemed to appear to be treating Indian users with “all or nothing approach” by not providing them with a choice of not sharing data with other companies owned by Facebook.

Further, he told the court that; this act leverages the social significance of WhatsApp which enables them to force users into a bargain which may breach their interests in information privacy and information security,”.

Additionally, he raised the Personal Data Protection Bill and said that it addresses a number of concerns similar to the ones mentioned in the petition, and lays down a policy with respect to the matter.

According to Sharma, the Centre was looking into the matter and the government has gone on record to state the same. They have also sent a communication to WhatsApp, seeking its reply.

The matter will be heard on 1st March 2021.

A petition filed by advocate Chaitanya Rohilla urged the court to release an injunction order against the new privacy policy with immediate effect. In his petitionRohilla stated that WhatsApp’s updated privacy norms give them access to an overall profile of a person’s online activity, which is against India’s fundamental right to privacy that is guaranteed by the Constitution. The following petition was being heard in the High Court.

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