The bench said, “There is a concern that circuit of messages is revealed by WhatsApp,” adding that citizens have “great apprehension about loss of their privacy” and they think that their data and chats being shared with others and it has to be looked into.
The bench told counsels appearing for Facebook and WhatsApp, “You (WhatsApp and Facebook) maybe two or three trillion companies but people value their privacy more than money. It is our duty to protect their privacy.” CJI SA Bobde said, “We are telling you what we heard and read. People think that if A sends a message to B and B to C. The circuit of messages is revealed to Facebook.”
During the hearing, senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Arvind Datar appearing for WhatsApp and Facebook respectively denied the allegations and called this “misinformation”. Senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for petitioner Internet Freedom Foundation, told the Bench that there is a great amount of metadata that is shared for profit and is a privacy concern.
Appearing for Centre, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that the companies cannot share data of users, and data must be protected. The court then issued a notice to WhatsApp and Facebook and posted the matter after four weeks.
The plea said the 2021 Policy of WhatsApp is “highly invasive and has been unilaterally forced upon Indian internet users”, urging the Court to grant an ad-interim order, restraining the sharing of any personal data of users by Whatsapp with Facebook for marketing or other purposes.
The Supreme Court, however, sought responses from the Centre and WhatsApp within four weeks on a fresh plea alleging lower standards of privacy for Indians in comparison to European users of the messaging app. The SC said that people have grave apprehensions that they will lose their privacy, and it is our duty to protect them.
The bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde also comprised Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian.
(With Agency Inputs)