The Supreme Court of India bench, headed by Justice Deepak Gupta, has reportedly asked the central government whether it is contemplating any move to regulate social media by linking of social media user accounts with their Aadhaar ID.
The apex court has said that it may give more time if the government is considering a framework around this linking in the near future. The hearing has now been deferred to September 24 and the government has been asked to answer by then. The move comes after the Supreme Court (SC) had sought the central government’s view on the matter last month, and warned against the repercussions.
The case being heard refers to the petition filed by social media giant Facebook seeking transfer of cases against WhatsApp traceability to the apex court. In its case, Facebook and WhatsApp had strongly objected to Aadhaar linking, saying it would affect the privacy of its users. It said a nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court had upheld privacy as a fundamental right under Article 21 of the constitution.
The original petitions filed in Chennai in July last year demanded linking of social media handles with the Aadhaar database. The Madras HC had then expanded the petition to include issues like ensuring message traceability to ‘curbing cybercrimes and intermediary liability’.
The apex court had agreed to hear Facebook’s transfer petition on public interest litigations (PILs) against WhatsApp’s traceability pending at the Madras HC, Bombay HC and in Madhya Pradesh.
The Tamil Nadu government told the court that Facebook’s concerns on user privacy go against its own “primary business model” of commercialising user data through targeted ads. In a detailed 24-page reply drawn by Additional Advocate General Balaji Srinivasan and settled by State Advocate General Vijay Narayan, said an argument about privacy “does not lie in the mouth of the petitioner [Facebook], whose primary business model is the use and commercialisation of users’ data, which is in turn shared with businesses and political parties for targeted advertising”.
The state government said that Madras High Court is not concerned with Aadhaar linking and therefore, there is no need to transfer the case. By filing this transfer petition, Tamil Nadu said the “whole attempt” of Facebook was to “evade compliance with Indian law”.