20:37 GMT28 February 2021
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    A public interest litigation (PIL) challenging WhatsApp’s latest policy update has reached the Delhi High Court. The filed plea has claimed that WhatsApp’s privacy policy allows full access to a user's online activity without any government supervision.

    The Delhi High Court, while hearing a public interest litigation (PIL), on Monday said that choosing to accept WhatsApp’s policies or deleting one's account is a “voluntary” decision that the users have to make.

    “It is a private app. Don't join it. It is a voluntary thing, don't accept it. Use some other app", Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva said during the hearing.

    The court also noted that if users were to actually read the terms and conditions of most mobile apps, they would be “surprised” at all the things that are being accepted by them.

    “Even Google maps captures all your data and stores it", the court added.

    The petition contends that the updated privacy policy of WhatsApp that was rolled out as an in-app notification earlier last week violates users' right to privacy under the constitution.

    In the court, WhatsApp and Facebook were represented by senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Mukul Rohatgi, who told the court that the plea was not maintainable and many of the issues raised in it were without any foundation.

    The defendants also reportedly highlighted WhatsApp’s recently released clarification that private chat messages in the app would remain encrypted and un-stored by the messenger.

    For now, the next hearing of the case has been dated for 25 January since it requires due diligence and consideration.

    The central government - which for now is mulling over summoning officials from WhatsApp as well as its parent Facebook to discuss the controversial subject - agreed with the court’s decision to further analyse the issue. 

    In its policy update notification, WhatsApp said that it would be sharing user data like device location and contact details for chats shared on its “Business” app with Facebook. In 2018, WhatsApp launched a new app dedicated to businesses so that merchants and buyers could connect easily online.

    The notification stirred major panic on social media because it was “mandatory” – as in, the users could either accept it or delete their accounts.

    Against the backdrop of this policy update from WhatsApp, netizens from several parts of the world, including India, began discussing switching to alternate messaging apps like Telegram and Signal.

    Reacting to the controversy, last week WhatsApp released an official blog-post detailing how it does not save the call logs, messaging information, or locations shared between users in their private chats. 

    In India, WhatsApp bought the front pages of several popular newspapers to flash bold adds claiming that protecting user privacy is in “its DNA”.

    ​For now, the messaging app has pushed up the enactment of its new policy update by three months, hoping that in due course, the matter would cool off.

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