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WhatsApp ruling: Experts seek privacy law

September 26, 2016 17:33 IST

WhatsApp was told to delete data of users who chose to opt out of its policy changes before September 25

The recent Delhi high court ruling that messaging app Whatsapp cannot share user data highlights the need for legislation on privacy, according to experts.

On August 25, Whatsapp, a platform with 70 million users in India that was acquired by Facebook in 2014, updated its policy to share user content with the social network. The decision opened new monetisation models for the messaging app.

In response to a PIL, the court ordered WhatsApp to delete data of users who chose to opt out of its policy changes before September 25. It also ordered  WhatsApp not to share data collected before September 25 with Facebook for users who had not opted out.

“The decision makes a strong statement on privacy,” said Sunil Abraham, executive director of the Centre for Internet Society. According to him, a user trusts a platform and provides access to his data. As another firm acquires the platform, it gains access to the data.

“Facebook owns Whatsapp. It has to look at ways of monetising it,” said Nikhil Pahwa, co-founder of SavetheInternet.in.

“With so much digital data being generated, there is a need for a privacy law in the country,” said Pahwa.

“Facebook’s consent interface is confusing. It can make a person who wants to opt out let the company access his data,” said Abraham, adding a law would take care of such intricacies. The government is working on a privacy bill.

Saroj Kumar Jha, partner, SRGR Law Offices, said there were few judgments on privacy in India based on constitutional rights.

“While the Information Technology Act enables courts to pass judgments on global companies on privacy, enforcing the orders is difficult,” he said.

“What is required is a privacy law that can protect user data and uphold the individual’s right to privacy,”  he added.

Photograph: Dado Ruvic/Reuters

Apurva Venkat & Moulishree Srivastava in Bengaluru/Mumbai
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