WhatsApp Trying to Force Users to Accept New Policy Before Data Protection Law Comes: Centre to High Court

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The Centre has told the Delhi High Court that social messaging platform WhatsApp was once trying to “force” its users to consent to the new privacy policy before the Personal Data Protection Invoice becomes the law by bombarding them with notifications day by day to obtain their consent.

Terming WhatsApp’s bombarding of notifications on its customers as an “anti-user practice” for obtaining “trick consent”, the central government has urged the court to direct the messaging platform to refrain from pushing notifications onto its existing users with regard to the new privacy policy.

The Centre’s claim has been made in an extra affidavit filed in response to several pleas challenging the new privacy policy of WhatsApp.

A WhatsApp spokesperson responded to the affidavit, “We reiterate that we have got already responded to the Government of India and assured them that the privacy of users remains our highest precedence. As a reminder, the recent update does not change the privacy of people’s personal messages. Its purpose is to supply extra information approximately how people can interact with businesses whether they select to take action.”

“We can not limit the functionality of how WhatsApp works in the coming weeks. Instead, we will be able to continue to remind users once in a while approximately the update in addition to when people select to use applicable optional features, like communicating with a commerce that is receiving enhance from Facebook. We are hoping this approach reinforces the choice that every one users have if or not they need to interact with a commerce. We can handle this approach until no less than the forthcoming PDP law comes into effect,” the spokesperson added.

One of the most pleas, which was once the first one to be filed, was once moved by Chaitanya Rohilla, a lawyer, in January this year.

Rohilla, represented by advocate Manohar Lal, has contended that the up to date privacy policy violates users’ correct to privacy under the Charter and they are able to either accept it or exit the app, but they cannot opt not to share their data with other Facebook-owned or third party apps.

The plea has claimed that the new privacy policy of WhatsApp allows full access into a user’s online activity without there being any supervision by the government.

In its extra affidavit, which supports the petitioners claims, the Centre has said the privacy policy violates the rules as it fails to specify types of touchy personal data being collected and also fails to inform users approximately details of the touchy personal information which is collected.

But even so, the policy also does not supply an option to users to review or amend the information, does not supply an option to withdraw consent retrospectively and also fails to assure further nondisclosure by third parties, the affidavit has said.

It has also stated that WhatsApp was once “indulging in anti-users practices by obtaining ”trick consent” from the users for its up to date privacy policy”.

“It is submitted that millions of WhatsApp existing users, those who have not accepted the up to date 2021 privacy policy are being bombarded with notifications on an on a regular basis basis,” it has said.

The government has said that WhatsApp “has unleashed its digital prowess to the unsuspecting existing users and want to force them to accept the up to date 2021 privacy policy by flashing such notifications at a steady intervals”.

“The game plan is very lucid, i.e., to transfer all of the existing user base dedicated to the up to date 2021 privacy policy before the Personal Data Protection (PDP) Invoice becomes the law,” the government has said in its affidavit.

The government has sought instructions to WhatsApp to place on record the number of times such notifications have been sent out till date on day by day basis and what was once the conversion rate – that is how many have accepted the up to date 2021 privacy policy vis-a-vis the number of notifications.

The central government has further said that WhatsApp “is currently having access to personal, touchy, and commerce data of hundreds of millions of Indian users and has also acquired role of an ”fundamental digital service” all the way through COVID-19 pandemic”, and thus, it was once vital that it privacy policy and terms of service “must be examined on the touchstone of privacy principles as laid down in K S Puttaswamy” verdict of the Supreme Court. 

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