Plea in Delhi High Court challenges WhatsApp’s privacy policy update

A Delhi-based advocate, Chaitanya Rohilla, has filed a plea in the Delhi High Court challenging WhatsApp’s new privacy policy update. He argues that WhatsApp updated privacy policy and Terms of Service violates the right to privacy and jeopardises national security by “sharing, transmitting and storing user data” in another country. The plea is scheduled to be heard by the court today, 15 January. WhatsApp changed its privacy policy in “the most arbitrary manner and had made it compulsory for its users to accept its terms and conditions, failing which the accounts and services would be terminated after 8 February 2021 for the respective user,” the petition reads.

Rohilla says that with the update, WhatsApp hangs a “damocles sword” over its users by asking them to accept the policy by 8 February.

 Plea in Delhi High Court challenges WhatsApps privacy policy update

Representational image. Reuters

Rohilla highlights through his petition that the policy takes away a users’ choice to not share data with other Facebook and the other third-party apps it owns. “This type of arbitrary behaviour and browbeating cannot be accepted in a democracy and is completely ‘ultra vires’ (beyond its powers) and against the fundamental rights as enshrined in the Constitution of India,” he alleged in the petition.

The petition also sought directions to the ministry of electronics and information technology to ensure that Whatsapp does not share any user data with Facebook or its associated apps.

Earlier this month, WhatsApp started to rollout in-app notifications informing users of an update in its Terms of Service and privacy policy. The notification read: “By tapping Agree, you accept the new terms and privacy policy, which take effect on 8 February 2021”. This means, in order to continue using the apps, users have to accept WhatsApp’s new privacy policies by 8 February.

This notification led to growing concern regarding privacy on the platform, particularly after it was understood that WhatsApp will be sharing more user data with its parent company Facebook. This led to an online movement of users and critics appealing to leave behind WhatsApp and move to a more secure platform like Signal or Telegram. 

However, in a recent blog shared by WhatsApp, the platform clarified that the update in policy is essentially for business accounts, and the personal chats still remain a 100 percent end-to-end encrypted.