The Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology’s affidavit was filed in reply to a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by civilians Dr. Seema Singh, Vikram Singh, and Meghan. They also stated that the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019, once enacted, will restrict the collection and usage of data by organizations like WhatsApp and other entities.
The government stated that the policy violated the fundamental right to privacy as granted by Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, and does not comply with the 2011 Information Technology Rules. The policy was found to be violating the law on five counts which are:
- Has not specified the kind of data that will be collected and stored
- No provision of details of the persons/companies the data is being shared with
- Does not allow the user to withdraw their consent later, and does not allow the user to even use the app if consent is not given
- Does not allow for review or amendment of information
- Does not guarantee non-disclosure by the third parties that the data is being shared with
WhatsApp’s new policy has been worded differently for EU users and the rest of the world; users in the European Union are provided with an option to opt out of allowing for collection and sharing of their data, whereas for other countries it is mandatory to give consent in order to continue using the app. The policy was initially supposed to come into effect starting on February 8 but was pushed to May 15 due to the backlash about its law violations.
The petitioners said that this new policy has shed light upon several cracks in the data protection laws in the country and needs to be remedied with a regulatory framework in place as soon as possible. The petition also voices concerns about how much danger or inconvenience it could cause if peoples’ data were to be misused by third parties who have so much sensitive information about the users at their fingertips.
The hearing has been adjourned to April 20 to further review the policy and determine the course of action and WhatsApp’s future in the country.