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Group Of Indian Startup Founders Petition SC Against WhatsApp Privacy Policy

Group Of Indian Startup Founders Petition SC Against WhatsApp Privacy Policy

A lobby group formed by Indian founders has filed a petition in the Supreme Court against WhatsApp’s new privacy policy

The petition says that messaging platform’s building of UPI payments inside its app is illegal and it should be stopped

WhatsApp’s introduction of a new privacy policy in January and its UPI payments feature are being challenged in several court cases in the country

The Atmanirbhar Digital India Foundation (ADIF), a lobbying group formed by Indian founders in January this year to fight the dominance of big tech companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon in the country, has filed a petition in the Supreme Court against WhatsApp’s new privacy policy. The matter is yet to be listed for a hearing in the apex court, according to a person close to the developments who did not want to be named.

Formally launched in January, the ADIF’s executive council consists of investors, startup founders and chief executives such as Murugavel Janakiraman of Bharat Matrimony, Snehil Khanor of TrulyMadly, Ritesh Malik of Innov8, Ajay Data of Data XGen Technologies, Sairee Chahal of SHEROES and Anand Lunia of India Quotient. 

The petition, a copy of which has been reviewed by Inc42, says that WhatsApp adding UPI payments is illegal and it should be stopped. The ADIF petition also makes the contention that WhatsApp is biased in its approach to the privacy of Indian users, as it has offered a better policy in Europe under the General Data Protection Rights (GDPR) regulation. 

Interestingly, amid a series of data breaches in the country, the ADIF has requested the SC to hold that a data fiduciary — meaning companies and organisations that hold user data — should be made liable for any data leak on their platforms.  Since it is not clear yet if the courts have jurisdiction over data fiduciaries in the absence of a data protection law, the petition also requested to settle the question. The Personal Data Protection Bill, which aims to provide a legal framework for data protection in the country, is yet to be passed as law.

Meanwhile, the Delhi High Court on Thursday (April 22) rejected a plea by WhatsApp and Facebook to dismiss the Competition Commission of India’s order to investigate the messaging platform on antitrust issues.

WhatsApp’s introduction of a new privacy policy in January, which will go into effect from May 15, 2021, and its UPI payments service are being challenged in several court cases in India. 

Moreover, a petition by Rajya Sabha MP Binoy Viswam contends that big tech companies like Facebook-owned WhatsApp, Google Pay and Amazon Pay should be asked to not send payments data to servers outside India. However, an RBI directive on data localisation says that payments data can go out of the country for a period of 24 hours after the transactions for processing purposes but should be erased post that.

Big tech companies Amazon, Facebook and Google have been jolted by certain data regulation proposals— such as setting up a regulator for data anonymised and a mechanism for firms to share data with other entities— tabled by a government panel last year. A group representing tech giants is preparing to push back against the proposals, according to a Reuters report in August last year.

A panel on non-personal data sharing appointed by the IT Ministry had recommended in July last year that a regulator should be set up to keep a watch on data that is anonymised or devoid of personal details but critical for companies to build their businesses.  The panel suggested a mechanism for companies to share data with others — even competitors — saying this would spur the digital ecosystem. If the recommendations are accepted by the government, it will form the basis of a new law to regulate such data.

Moreover, a data protection bill has been drafted with stringent norms that seek to regulate “non-personal” data recorded by tech giants such as Amazon, Facebook and Google. Apart from these recommendations, tech giants have been facing numerous roadblocks with respect to the use and storage of data, especially for financial services.