Supreme Court orders Whatsapp to make public its undertaking on 2021 privacy policy [1.2.2023]

The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed Whatsapp to inform Indian users at large that they needn't accept the the platform's 2021 privacy policy in order to be able to use it.

“WhatsApp’s functionality would remain unaffected till the Data Protection Bill comes into existence,” the court said.

In a letter written to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) on May 22, 2021, WhatsApp had said its users in India who have not yet accepted its latest privacy policy (made that year), would not face any disruptions while using the application.

The Bench directed WhatsApp to issue, on two separate occasions, a full-page advertisement containing the details of this undertaking, in five national newspapers.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court said it will examine whether it should now consider the plea challenging WhatsApp’s policy to share users’ data with the parent company Meta (Facebook) and others after the Centre submitted that it was going to bring a data protection bill in the Budget Session.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told a five-judge Constitution bench headed by Justice K M Joseph, that a data protection bill is likely to be introduced in the second half of the ongoing Parliament session.

Senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for the petitioners, submitted that the introduction of a Bill itself should not defer the taking up of this case. He said the prayer he was seeking was that personal data cannot be shared with the Facebook group of companies.

The apex court was hearing the plea filed by two students, Karmanya Singh Sareen and Shreya Sethi, who had challenged the sharing of user data by WhatsApp with Facebook and others.

02 Feb 2023