Indian Chief Justice S.A. Bobde in the notice said, “People have great apprehension over the loss of privacy. People think that if somebody messages to someone then…the whole thing is disclosed to Facebook.” The Supreme Court also said that despite Facebook being a trillion-dollar-plus company, Indian citizens are apprehensive about their privacy. Hence, it is the Supreme Court’s duty to intervene and protect the privacy of people.
The Argument from Supreme Court
Senior advocate and Member of Parliament Kapil Sibal outrightly denied the Supreme Court’s claim and assured that no private data is being shared. Sibal also pointed out that the issue remains pending before the Delhi High Court. Senior advocate Arvind Datar represented Facebook as a counsel and said how the fears of privacy invasion are not based in reality.
“EU has a different set of laws”: Kapil Sibal
However, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta informed the Supreme Court that whether there is such a law or not, the privacy of Indian citizens must be protected as it is a fundamental right. “Regardless of whether there is a law or not, the right to privacy is part of fundamental rights. They (WhatsApp) must protect the right to privacy,” said Mehta. He also said that the nation shares the apex court’s apprehension over data.
MeitY Letter to WhatsApp CEO
Earlier, MeitY had given the Facebook-owned messaging service a week to clarify the issues related to user privacy, data transfer and sharing policy. The Ministry also sought clarity in the general business practices WhatsApp has in place.
The MeitY sent a strong-worded email to Will Cathcart, WhatsApp CEO and reminded him that India houses a major chunk of WhatsApp’s userbase and remains the biggest market for the services it provides. In the email, the Ministry indicated that the newly updated privacy police raised “grave concerns regarding the implications for the choice and autonomy of Indian citizens.” MeitY also asked the instant messaging platform to once again reconsider the approach they have to their information privacy and data security.
WhatsApp reacted to the email by saying it is ready to curb any misinformation and provide clarity about its updated policy. WhatsApp also gave a statement to India Today claiming that the personal messages of WhatsApp users will be end-to-end encrypted as always and will not be visible to Facebook or any other entity.
The Supreme Court’s notice on Monday came after WhatsApp provided a seemingly vague response to the MeitY’s notice sent earlier to the company on the issue. The company’s refusal to give clear responses to the government’s concerns has resulted in Supreme Court’s intervention.