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HC seeks Govt reply on WhatsApp’s user data sharing with Facebook

WhatsApp's recent decision to share user data with parent company Facebook on Tuesday reached the doorsteps of Delhi High Court, which sought the government's response on the modification of the new privacy policy. 

A bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Sangita Dhingra issued notice to the Centre on a plea by two users of the most popular instant messaging service, alleging that WhatsApp, Facebook Inc and Facebook India Online Pvt Ltd's new private policy "compromises the rights of its users".

Taking note of the concern by petitioners Karmanya Singh Sareen and Shreya Sethi, the high court wished to examine the issue and asked the concerned authorities to file their reply by September 14. 

"The privacy policy is in stark contrast to the Privacy Policy existing from July 7, 2012. In its first revised modification on August 25, 2016, Respondents (WhatsApp, Facebook Inc. and Facebook India Online Pvt Ltd) have introduced this policy which severely compromises the rights of its users and makes the privacy rights of users completely vulnerable," the plea alleged.

The new policy, which is likely to come into force from September 25, has sought to change the "most valuable, basic and essential feature" of WhatsApp, which commenced operations in 2010, by "unilaterally threatening to take away the protection to privacy of details and data of its users and sharing the same with Facebook and all its group companies including for the purpose of commercial advertising and marketing." 

Senior advocates Sandeep Sethi and Pratibha M Singh, appearing for the petitioners, submitted before the court that it is a "very serious breach of policy". 

"The manner in which so-called consent is sought to be taken is highly deceptive in as much as almost the entire community of users of WhatsApp in India are not equipped to even read, much less comprehend, the consequences of the terms and conditions on the basis whereupon, WhatsApp is pretending to obtain consent of the users," the plea filed by advocate Tanoodbhav Singhdev said. 
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