‘You may be 2-3 tn dollar firm but people value privacy more than money’: SC to WhatsApp
   Date :16-Feb-2021

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NEW DELHI :
 
“YOU may be two-three trillion dollar company but people value their privacy more than the money,” the Supreme Court told WhatsApp on Monday as it sought the US-based instant messaging firm’s reply on a fresh plea challenging its new policy to share users’ data with parent company Facebook and others. It is the duty of the judiciary to protect citizens’ privacy, the top court said, asking WhatsApp as also the Centre to file replies on affidavit within four weeks on the plea which alleged that lower standards of privacy are being applied by the firm for Indians in comparison to its European users of the app. WhatsApp told the top court however that Europe has a special law (General Data Protection Regulation) and if such a law is passed by the Parliament then it will follow it.
 
A bench of Chief Justice Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian said, “People have grave apprehensions that they will lose their privacy and it is our duty to protect them”. “You may be two or three trillion dollar company but people value their privacy more than the money. People gave grave concern about their privacy,” the bench said, adding that “there is apprehension that WhatsApp will share the information and data about their circuit of message with others”. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre said that it is the concern of the nation and they cannot be allowed to share users’ information with anyone.
 
“They have to follow the law of the land. They cannot be allowed to share data of users with anyone,” Mehta. Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for WhatsApp, said there is no discrimination in the new privacy policy. “The privacy policy which will be applied in India is same for the whole world except for Europe. In Europe they have a special law. If Parliament passes such law, then it will also follow it,” Sibal said. The apex court issued notice to the Central Government and the Facebook-owned app on an interim application filed by Karmanya Singh Sareen in a pending petition of 2017, which has been referred to the Constitution bench. At the outset, senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for Sareen and others, argued that the plea has also challenged the new privacy policy of WhatsApp which will come in effect from May 15, 2021.
 
Divan alleged that the app is applying lower standards of privacy for Indians in comparison to European users and they be barred from sharing data with Facebook and others. “There is a huge difference between privacy policy which is being applied to Indians and to what is applied in Europe. Unlike in India, in Europe they have to take prior consent of users before sharing any data of users. They be directed to apply same standards of privacy to Indians as applied to users in Europe,” Divan said.