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Centre asks Delhi High Court to restrain WhatsApp on new privacy policy

Centre asks Delhi High Court to restrain WhatsApp on new privacy policy
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Centre asks Delhi High Court to restrain WhatsApp on new privacy policy

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The Union government has urged the Delhi High Court to restrain WhatsApp from implementing its new privacy policy and terms of service

New Delhi: The Union government has urged the Delhi High Court to restrain WhatsApp from implementing its new privacy policy and terms of service. The Centre informed the court that in view of rising concerns over data protection and privacy, it has framed the Data Protection Bill, 2019, to "limit the ability of entities" such as WhatsApp.

This, the government reasoned, is necessary for ushering in a "robust regime" on data protection of internet users. The Facebook owned-messaging platform has been facing global criticism recently over its new privacy policy, under which the app could share limited user data with Facebook and its group firms. WhatsApp's privacy policy poses an added challenge for the Indian government. The privacy situation in this country is unlike that in the European Union (EU), where users get more control over how tech platforms handle their personal data, thanks to the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Even under the new privacy policy, WhatsApp users in the EU get an additional option called "managing and retaining your information", which lets them rectify, erase, or update any private information that the platform controls. Since India lacks a regulatory authority, the country faces a hurdle in policing tech companies over their handling of user data, that is, until the data protection act comes into force.

The government had earlier this month sought more time from the court to examine the issue regarding WhatsApp's new privacy policy, which it believes provides 'differential treatment' to Indian users. In the last hearing, the central government had told the Delhi High Court that the issue is a "matter of concern" as the messaging application policy differs for users in the European Union.

The Centre has contended that not giving users an option to opt out raises "grave concerns regarding the implications for the choice and autonomy of Indian citizens". Union Minister of State for IT and Communications Sanjay Dhotre informed the Lok Sabha two days ago that the central government has asked the messaging platform to review its privacy policy changes.

WhatsApp, for its part, has clarified that the new policy changes nothing for private messages between friends and family as these are end-to-end encrypted and neither Facebook nor WhatsApp can see those texts.

It said that only in some specific conditions can WhatsApp read "business messages" and share the data with Facebook to help those businesses with targeted ads and user optimisation on partner platforms.

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