Delhi High Court gives WhatsApp clean chit, says it has no access to user data

WhatsApp is in the news for all wrong reasons. On September 14, the Delhi High Court issued directions to the Facebook-owned instant messaging service to file an affidavit addressing the privacy policy and copyright concerns. A public interest litigation (PIL) was filed before the court by Karmanya Singh Sareen and Shreya Sethi questioning the latest privacy policy of WhatsApp.

In the petition filed before the court, Sareen and Sethi questioned the proposed new policy of sharing data with Facebook. The bench comprising of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Sangita Dhingra Sehgal directed WhatsApp to file an affidavit after its lawyer, Siddharth Luthra, disclosed that the servers did not retain any form of data except the username and phone number of the users.

WhatsApp denies sharing of content with Facebook

In his argument, Luthra revealed that there is no question of messages, photographs or documents getting shared with Facebook. Technically, WhatsApp has no access to the content posted by its users. Meanwhile, the information about other users with whom they establish contact would be shared with Facebook after September 25.

Lawyers say WhatsApp privacy policy violates guidelines

In the meantime, Senior lawyer Pratibha Singh, who represented petitioners Karmanya Singh Sareen and Shreya Sethi argued before the court that the new privacy policy issued by WhatsApp clearly reveals that the data will be shared. They claimed that if a user chose to opt out of the sharing of information for Facebook ads and products, the information shared via WhatsApp could “still be used for other purposes”.

WhatsApp privacy policy seriously violates copyright

The lawyer also raised serious concerns regarding copyright violations. She argued that as per the Facebook privacy policy, all content and data shared via the site could be used or reproduced by Facebook to “create derivative works.” She asked the WhatsApp counsel to explain the real meaning behind the so-called derivative works.

WhatsApp asks users to quit if not interested

Luthra, meanwhile, made a counter attack by stating that a user can quit WhatsApp at any time if the user did not wish to allow information sharing with Facebook. Since the joining of WhatsApp is voluntary, the relevant user can opt out in the same way.

TRAI declines to intervene

Furthermore, the lawyer who appeared on behalf of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India said before the court that TRAI did not have the jurisdiction to regulate the privacy policy of a private company.

It remains to be seen as to what stand WhatsApp takes when the issue will come up for hearing. We are also eager to know about the contents of the proposed affidavit. In all probability, WhatsApp will strongly defend the stand taken by the company.

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