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WhatsApp Tells Delhi HC It Won’t Limit Functionalities For Users Who Don’t Consent To New Privacy Policy

WhatsApp Tells Delhi HC It Won’t Limit Functionalities For Users Who Don’t Consent To New Privacy Policy

The messaging platform has said that it will maintain a status quo until India’s data protection law is enacted

The social media giant and its sister messaging platform are being heard in an appeal against an antitrust probe that the Competition Commission of India ordered in March this year

Following the order, CCI issued a notice to Facebook and WhatsApp on June 4 ordering them to furnish certain information to aid with the investigation. Facebook and WhatsApp then moved Delhi HC seeking to stay the process

Facebook-owned WhatsApp told the Delhi High Court on Friday (July 9) that it would not limit functionalities for users who do not consent to its latest privacy policy. The messaging platform has said that it will maintain a status quo until India’s data protection law is enacted. 

“We will continue to display our updates from time to time to people who have not accepted. In addition, we will display the update whenever a user chooses relevant optional features, like when a user communicates with a business receiving support from Facebook,” Senior Advocate Harish Salve, representing WhatsApp, reportedly told the court.

The social media giant and its sister messaging platform are being heard in an appeal against an antitrust probe that the Competition Commission of India ordered in March.

Following the order, CCI issued a notice to Facebook and WhatsApp on June 4 ordering them to furnish certain information to aid with the investigation. Facebook and WhatsApp then moved Delhi HC seeking to stay the process. 

The competition watchdog had originally said in March that it plans to complete the probe within 60 days. However, Facebook and WhatsApp had already appealed the decision in court. 

During that appeal hearing in Delhi HC on April 13, CCI told the court that WhatsApp’s controversial policy update could lead to excessive data collection and stalking of its users. In response, Harish Salve, representing WhatsApp in the latest hearing, added that the matter is already pending before the Supreme Court and the investigation taken up by CCI is just a “headline-grabbing endeavour”.

While ordering an investigation into the messaging app’s new privacy update in March, the CCI did not mince any words stating that consumers will end up losing control over their data with WhatsApp’s new data sharing policy with Facebook.

“Today’s consumers value non-price parameters of services viz. quality, customer service, innovation, etc. as equally if not more important as price. The competitors in the market also compete on the basis of such non-price parameters. Reduction in consumer data protection and loss of control over their personalised data by the users can be taken as reduction in quality under the antitrust law,” says the order.

While rolling out the new privacy policy update worldwide in March, WhatsApp said that it would share more user data with parent company Facebook, particularly related to business transactions on WhatsApp, other activity as well as device-level information from users. The move is tied to WhatsApp’s bigger ecommerce play as well as its super app ambitions in India.

WhatsApp told users that those who do not accept the amended privacy policy, within February 08, 2021, may no longer be able to access WhatsApp chats or groups. However, the company decided to delay this process till May 15, 2021, after massive backlash from users. It has decided to go ahead with the policy nonetheless, despite protests from civil rights groups and the central government.

Senior advocate Aman Lekhi, representing the CCI, added during the hearing in Delhi HC that the current matter is not about privacy of users, but the data WhatsApp would have access to once these privacy policies come into play, as per a report in Bar And Bench. Lekhi noted that WhatsApp, which has about 530 Mn users in India, would also have access to data such as “who is calling whom, through which device, when and for what purpose, customer profiling and consumer preference will be monetised for targeted advertising, etc,” which amounts to “stalking”.