The Supreme Court on Wednesday referred to a Constitution Bench the question of whether the data sharing between online messaging service WhatsApp and social networking site Facebook violated privacy of its users. A bench of Chief Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar and Justice DY Chandrachud referred the matter to the Constitution Bench after it was told that the relationship between WhatsApp and its user(s) was that of a contract between two parties with the user agreeing to the terms and conditions.
The court fixed 18 April as the date for hearing by the larger bench. Petitioners Karmanya Singh Sareen and Shreya Sethi contended that under a new policy, WhatsApp could access, read, share and use the contents for commercial purposes and the same impinged on the privacy of its users. The petitioners said it is the government’s duty to protect the people’s rights under Articles 19 and 21 of the Constitution and safeguard their privacy.
They said private communication between two persons using the online messaging service had to be protected for privacy. During an earlier hearing, the court was told that the government was duty-bound to regulate the online messaging site and the social networking site since interception of phone call without prior government permission attracts prosecution.
The changes were introduced on 25 August, 2016. Users were at that time given a time limit of 30 days to opt out of the new data sharing policy. The sweeping changes allowed Facebook to access device specifications, information from third party app integrations to WhatsApp, the identities of those messaging, and what groups people belonged to. The updated policy also allowed to introduce advertisements from third parties. The changes might have been unfair to the users, but was still legal. Karmanya Singh Sareen and Shreya Seth filed the petition against the data sharing agreement soon after.
The High Court also asked the Centre to consider if instant messaging app and social networking site could be brought under the statutory regulatory framework.
With inputs from IANS
Publish date: April 6, 2017 3:28 pm| Modified date: April 6, 2017 3:28 pm