Won’t compel users to opt for new privacy policy till enactment of data protection law: WhatsApp to Delhi high court – Times of India

NEW DELHI: WhatsApp on Friday informed the Delhi high court that till the data protection bill comes into force, it would not compel users to opt for its new privacy policy as it has been put on hold.
Appearing for the instant messaging platform, senior advocate Harish Salve said, “We voluntarily agreed to put it (the policy) on hold … we will not compel people to accept.”
WhatsApp also clarified that it would not limit the functionality for users who are not opting for new privacy policy in the meantime.
Last month, the court had refused to stay the Competition Commission of India (CCI) notice asking Facebook and WhatsApp to furnish certain information in relation to a probe ordered by it into the instant messaging app’s new privacy policy.
In their applications filed in the pending appeals, Facebook and WhatsApp had sought stay on the CCI’s notices asking them to furnish certain information for the inquiry conducted by it. The notices were issued to WhatsApp and Facebook on June 4 and June 8 respectively.
The case relates to the appeals of Facebook and WhatsApp against a single judge order dismissing their pleas against the probe CCI ordered into the instant messaging app’s new privacy policy.
The high court had on May 6 issued notices on the appeals and asked the Centre to respond to it.
The high court, in its June 21 order, noted that Additional Solicitor Generals (ASG) Aman Lekhi and Balbir Singh, representing CCI, submitted that though the issuance was perfectly in line with the procedure contemplated under the statute for taking forward an on-going investigation, which has not been stayed by the division bench, it would take substantial time for preparing a report after the receipt of the information called-for.
During arguments on the applications, senior advocate Harish Salve, representing WhatsApp, had said the problem was that they have received a fresh notice on June 4 and the last date to respond was June 21.
He had said the privacy policy was already under challenge in the Supreme Court and the Delhi HC by way of a batch of petitions and even the government is looking into it.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Facebook, had said the question here was of propriety and it was not correct as the highest court of the country, that is, the Supreme Court is looking into the matter.
Both the senior advocates had submitted that in view of the DG’s demand for information within 15 days of receipt of notice on pain of penalty, it is clear that the DG proposes to take action against the appellants, without awaiting a decision of the pending issues by the division bench, in an act of overreach of the judicial process, which deserves to be stayed.
ASG Lekhi had opposed the pleas saying at the stage of inquiry furnishing of information will not lead to any order by the CCI and the notice is in pursuance to the inquiry which was not stayed by the high court and that this not the first notice issued to them.
ASG Singh had said since there is a statutory order against Facebook and WhatsApp, they should not use the high court’s order and say that they will not furnish the information sought by CCI and the information should not be stalled at this stage.
The single judge on April 22 had said though it would have been “prudent” for the CCI to await the outcome of petitions in the Supreme Court and the Delhi HC against WhatsApp’s new privacy policy, not doing so would not make the regulator’s order “perverse” or “wanting of jurisdiction”.
The court had said it saw no merit in the petitions of Facebook and WhatsApp to interdict the investigation directed by the CCI.
The CCI had contended before the single judge that it was not examining the alleged violation of individuals’ privacy which was being looked into by the Supreme Court.
It had argued before the court that the new privacy policy of WhatsApp would lead to excessive data collection and “stalking” of consumers for targeted advertising to bring in more users and is therefore an alleged abuse of dominant position.
WhatsApp and Facebook had challenged the CCI’s March 24 order directing a probe into the new privacy policy.
In January, the CCI on its own decided to look into WhatsApp’s new privacy policy on the basis of news reports regarding the same.
(With inputs from agencies)

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