SC issues notice to Govt, TRAI, Facebook, WhatsApp over data privacy

India does not have a clear law on data privacy, say experts

GN Bureau | January 16, 2017


#Facebook   #TRAI   #government   #Delhi high court   #Supreme court   #WhatsApp  

The supreme court on Monday has issued notice to the government, telecom regulatory authority of India (TRAI), WhatsApp and Facebook regarding data privacy.

The issue was first taken up by the Delhi high court last year, based on a PIL filed by two law students, Karmanya Singh Sareen and Shreya Sethi. The petitioners have challenged WhatsApp privacy policy 2016 for sharing users’ information with Facebook. The petitioner claimed that changing policy without informing users is fundamentally violating their right guaranteed under Article 21 of the constitution of India.

The high court, on September 23, had delivered its judgment on the case by directing WhatsApp, a USA-based company, to entirely delete details and data of users who have deactivated their account before September 25. The judgment also directed the internet-based messaging platform to delete data, information and details up to September 25 of even those users who continue to be part of the platform.

This means that users who continue to be on WhatsApp, their data and details generated after September 25 will be with WhatsApp, owned by Facebook. The information is getting transferred to the company’s server which is located in USA.

“There is no actual way of finding out whether WhatsApp has followed the judgment or not. Thereafter the judgment, in Germany, UK and all across Europe, Facebook has been ordered not to collect data and share it. So we then filed another petition with the supreme court, asking if other countries are taking measures on data privacy, then why not us,” said one of the advocates associated with the case.

The supreme court has sought response by February 6.

WhatsApp currently has over one billion monthly active users globally. In India, over 70 million people use the messaging service. In 2014, social media website Facebook bought WhatsApp for $19 billion. Both the companies are USA-based. After their merger, WhatsApp in its new privacy policy announced that it will share information of its users with Facebook.

So, does India have any clear laws governing data protection or privacy?

India has Information Technology Act, 2000 that provides legal recognition to data and information carried by the means of electronic platform. However, the Act is not effective when it comes to data privacy.

“India does not have a dedicated law on privacy. The Information Technology Act, 2000 hardly has effective provisions to protect any data and personal privacy in the digital ecosystem. The Indian Government needs to come up with strong privacy law which can protect both personal privacy and data privacy in an effective manner,” writes Pavan Duggal, supreme court advocate and an expert on cyber law, at Firstpost.

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