Govt to frame data protection rules for WhatsApp, Facebook

Earlier, the Supreme Court had sought responses from the Centre and TRAI on the plea that privacy of over 157 million Indians has been infringed by social networking sites.

Updated: Apr 19, 2017 01:16:53

By Bhadra Sinha

People are seen as silhouettes as they check mobile devices whilst standing against an illuminated wall bearing WhatsApp Inc's logo. (Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The government is in the process of framing a policy to protect the data imprints on WhatsApp, Facebook and other applications, the Supreme Court was informed on Tuesday.

Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi supported the petition filed in the top court questioning the privacy policy of WhatsApp that allows the social media platform to share the data commercially left behind by its users. He said the comprehensive data protection framework would ban sharing of data by service providers or app owners.

The law officer made the submission before a five-judge bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra, which is hearing an appeal filed by two students, Karmanya Singh and Shreya Sethi.

Both have challenged a Delhi high court verdict that refused to accept their contention that WhatsApp privacy policy, which changed after Facebook took over the popular messaging service, did not violate the fundamental rights of a user by sharing confidential data.

Rohatgi said the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) was in the process of evolving the data protection framework. He requested the bench to adjourn the matter by three months as the new policy might be finalized by then.

The AG’s arguments were contested by both WhatsApp and Facebook, who denied the allegations. Their counsel, senior advocate Kapil Sibal and Siddhartha Luthra, submitted that the data shared on their platforms was end-to-end crypted and inaccessible.

However, the bench asked the petitioners’ lawyer senior advocate Harish Salve to formulate the issues in the matter by April 24 and fixed April 27 to hear the case. Whether the case would be taken up during the summer break would be on the next date.

The SC had on April 5 referred the petition to a constitution bench. On January 16, it had sought responses from the Centre and TRAI on the plea that privacy of over 157 million Indians has been infringed by social networking sites - WhatsApp and Facebook - for alleged commercial use of personal communication.

In its verdict in September last year the HC had directed WhatsApp to delete the information/data of those who had opted out of the service before September 25, 2016 and not to share them with social networking site Facebook or its group companies.

First Published: Apr 19, 2017 01:16:39


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