The updated privacy policy of WhatsApp, which currently has been put into abeyance after facing a massive backlash from the community, has also been caught up in the crosshairs of the Indian Judicial System. Several petitions have been filed in the Supreme court and High Court challenging the applicability of the said policies as they are claimed to violative of ‘Right to Privacy’. While there hasn’t been any order or judgment by the courts as of yet, observing the court’s views and observations regarding the same is also very important as it helps us gain more clarity into various facets of the right of privacy, especially with respect to the regime of data privacy in a country like India where there is still no proper legislation governing the Data Protection and Data privacy

A petition was filed in the Hon’ble Delhi High Court, challenging the new policy and asking for it to be rolled back. However, the view of the court of Hon’ble Justice Sanjeev Sachdev presented a different perspective which forces one to think and re-evaluate their priorities. The Hon’ble judge pointed out that WhatsApp is a private company and the use of such app is voluntary in nature and one can simply not use it if they don’t agree with their terms. To quote justice Sachdeva “It is a private app. If you think data is compromised, delete it, don’t use the app. It is a voluntary thing, use some other app.” This is a very interesting thought to put in perspective as it helps one realise that one’s life is not dependant on these apps and while the world around us does create an environment where one feels that they don’t have control over their devices, data or their online presence, the same is simply not true. However, it is important to note that this matter is still underway and no concrete decision has been taken as of yet. The only interesting development in the case is the statement of the central government to the Hon’ble court that they are considering issues of data privacy arising out of WhatsApp’s privacy policy.

In another case, which is currently handled by the bench headed by the Hon’ble Chief Justice of India, Justice Bobde, the court gave another very interesting perspective or rather an observation of status quo of the mindset of Indians with respect to the issue of Data Privacy. The court stated that Indian citizens have grave apprehensions regarding the privacy concerns posed by the new privacy policy introduced by the messaging app, WhatsApp. CJI Bobde also stated this to WhatsApp that “You may be two or three trillion dollar companies but people value their privacy more than money”. In this particular case, which is an appeal against the temporary relief granted by the high court towards a petition filed in 2016 against the privacy policy of WhatsApp (released then), a separate application was filed seeking directions from the court against WhatsApp to not lower privacy standards for Indian users and the privacy policy at par with the Users in Europe should be applied in India as well. However, the respondents highlighted that a separate law exists in Europe which legally binds them into making such policies and no such law exists in India. Here the respondents were referring to the personal data protection bill, 2019 of India and General Data Protection Regulations(GDPR) of the European Union. Interestingly, this is the same bench which formulated the Justice Shri Krishna Committee in 2017 which was responsible for bringing in the Draft Data protection regulations which were later amended and edited by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.

The entire motive of this blog was to bring the readers attention to the developments in present discourse concerning data protection and data privacy. All of these statements by the Hon’ble Judges were made during proceedings and are not from actual judgements or orders.

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