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Centre tells Delhi High Court to stay implementation of WhatsApp’s new privacy policy

In a move that may stall expansion plans of Facebook-owned messaging platform WhatsApp, the Union government has asked the Delhi High Court to stay the implementation of WhatsApp’s new privacy policy, saying it violates the IT Rules of 2011.

Under the new privacy policy by WhatsApp, which is likely to come into force on May 15, the users cannot opt not to share their data with other Facebook-owned or third party apps. The Union government has asked the High Court to stay the rollout of the new policy and examine its legal validity.

According to the Centre, the new policy violates the IT Rules of 2011 on several counts and also cited the privacy ruling of the Supreme Court to point out that the new data protection bill pending in Parliament is meant to prevent companies from misusing data.

The ministry of electronics and information technology has challenged WhatsApp‘s new privacy policy which forces users to either accept or exit the app. The new policy refrains users from opting not to share their data with other Facebook-owned or third party apps.

The Centre, in its affidavit, said, “It is humbly prayed that in view of the above submissions, the Respondent No. 2 (WhatsApp) may be restrained from implementing its new privacy policy and terms of service dated January 4, 2021, from February 8, 2021, or any subsequent date pending adjudication by this court.”

The affidavit further said that the IT Rules impose a host of obligations on a company in relation to the security of the data collected by it in the course of its business. But the new privacy policy does not fulfil any of these, the affidavit states, giving a list of the violations.

The government said WhatsApp has failed to specify the types of personal data being collected under its new policy and does not provide the option to even review information being shared. The government has also faulted WhatsApp’s new policy for failing to guarantee a consumer that the shared information will not be passed on to a third party.

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