Case Description

This case concerns the privacy policy of WhatsApp which is an internet messaging service. The privacy policy permits WhatsApp to share data with Facebook and all its group companies for the purposes of commercial advertising and marketing. The privacy policy has been challenged as being violative of the right to privacy. 

Background

Karmanya Singh and Shreya Sethi filed a Special Leave Petition (SLP) in the Supreme Court challenging the 2016 privacy policy of WhatsApp. They voiced an urgent need to protect the data of Indians who use internet messaging applications such as Whatsapp. They argued that, by sharing private data of its users with Facebook and all its group companies, WhatsApp threatens the right to privacy of its users.

In 2014, WhatsApp was bought by Facebook. Whatsapp acknowledged that their privacy policy will not change. Yet, in August 2016, Whatsapp announced a change in their privacy policy. The new policy says that account information of users including users' phone number and contact details. The new policy would come into effect after September 25, 2016. This was when Karmanya Singh and Shreya Sethi decided to challenge the privacy policy in the Delhi High Court.

On 23rd September 2016, a Divisional bench of the Delhi High Court rejected the petition. The Court, however, directed WhatsApp to delete the data, until 25th September 2016, of users who choose to delete the application as well as users who choose to retain the application on the mobile phones. However, information shared via WhatsApp messenger after 25th September was allowed to be shared under the new policy. It held that it is always open to the existing users of WhatsApp who do not want to share their information to delete their accounts.

Thereafter, the petitioners filed a SLP at the Supreme Court against the Delhi High Court judgment.

A Constitution Bench will decide the case.

Issues

Whether WhatsApp's Privacy policy of August 2016 violates the Right to Privacy of its users?

Whether a privacy policy should have specific 'opt-out' provisions without the user having to 'opt-out' of the application in totality? In this case, whether WhatsApp is obligated to provide a specific option of 'Not to share data' with Facebook?

Whether the manner of seeking 'consent' from users who are unable to read and understand the new privacy policy amounts to deception?

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