Parliamentary panel members flag concerns over WhatsApp's proposed new privacy policy

By ANI
NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court on Tuesday reserved the order on Facebook and WhatsApp pleas challenging the Competition Commission of India (CCI) order for an investigation into the messaging app’s new privacy policy.

A single-judge bench of Justice Navin Chawla reserved the order after the counsel of all sides concluded their arguments.

The court was hearing two petitions challenging the March 24 order passed by CCI directing a probe into the new privacy policy and that the probe should be completed within 60 days.

Facebook and WhatsApp, said that since the issue of WhatsApp’s privacy policy is being heard by the Supreme Court, therefore there was no requirement of CCI to order the probe.

Appearing for one of the petitioners, Senior Advocate Harish Salve told the court that the matter is pending before the Supreme Court and this is a headline-grabbing endeavour by CCI.

Representing Facebook, Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi said that CCI proceedings must be kept in abeyance.

The counsel apprised the court that when Facebook bought the messaging app, WhatsApp started a Policy in 2016 and it was challenged in the Supreme Court and the Centre had submitted to have a proper framework on this.Senior Advocate Salve said that this is not a competition issue.

Recently, WhatsApp came up with an update, which does not change the privacy policy but had given an opt-out to its pre-2016 customers, the counsel said adding that that privacy is a constitutional concept and not for the CCI to decide.

The counsel also added that user conversation is protected by end to end encryption. He also apprised the court that applications on the 2021 policy are also pending before the court. “Respect for privacy is coded in our DNA since we started WhatsApp,” the lawyer for Whatsapp said, adding that it does not retain messages and are deleted from the servers after it is delivered.

Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, who was appearing for Facebook, told the court that Facebook is not following WhatsApp’s policy. He also said that matter is being heard by the Supreme Court.

Additional Solicitor General Aman Lekhi, representing CCI in the matter, told the court that the matter is not of privacy but of access to data and the Competition is going to deal with metadata.

ASG Lekhi responded that data can have a privacy or competition dimension. He also said that the issue is completely competition based as understanding consumer behaviour and preferences facilitate targeted advertising.