IFF presses for interim reliefs in the WhatsApp Privacy Case

We had earlier updated that IFF has intervened in a case involving issues of online privacy and licensing of online platforms before the Supreme Court of India. This case arises from a challenge to the change in WhatsApp’s privacy policy, after which it began sharing data with Facebook.

Through the WhatsApp case, we hope to carry forward our promise that the landmark nine-judge-bench ruling upholding privacy as a fundamental right is just the beginning. Yesterday, we pressed for interim reliefs to restrict WhatsApp from sharing your data.

Read more to find out the latest developments.

Arguments by the parties

At the start of arguments, the Additional Solicitor General appearing for the Government referred to an office memorandum by which a committee of experts had been formed to deliberate on a data protection framework. IFF has grave concerns on the composition of this committee. However, is not making any substantive comment at this time. The ASG submitted that the Government will soon bring in a legislation to protect data protection, which will cover concerns as have arisen in the WhatsApp case. This was strongly supported by senior counsel appearing for WhatsApp, Facebook India and Facebook, Inc.

In response to this, Ms. Madhavi Divan, advocate for the Petitioner, submitted that there were important constitutional determinations which are applicable irrespective of a future or an existing data protection legislation. Representing IFF, Senior Counsel Mr. K.V. Vishwanathan supported this stand and submitted that the recent nine judge bench Privacy Judgement directly considered the constitutional interaction between privacy and metadata. Given such arguments were likely to take time and would not have concluded yesterday, we pressed for interim reliefs.

Interim Reliefs

“Interim reliefs” are essentially safeguards that a court can grant till the case is finally heard and disposed off. Hence, till the time the Court decides the larger legality, users should not be put at risk with respect to their personal data. We sought to limit the sharing of data, on which the Hon’ble Court directed the filing of affidavits by WhatsApp and Facebook to state their data sharing practices (which may include details such as, what data is shared, how it is shared, with whom it is shared, and how it is processed), after which it will consider the passing of an interim order.

We are thankful to our legal team which consists of Vrinda Bhandari, N. Sai Vinod, Ravi Raghunathan and Mukunda Rao, who assist Mr. K.V. Viswanath, Senior Advocate, and appear pro-bono to support the digital rights of internet users in India.

The case has now been fixed for hearing on 20.11.2017. A copy of the Order for the hearing on 06.09.2017 is available here.

This is the second litigation action in which IFF has engaged, the first being in the Delhi High Court on the right to be forgotten.

IFF promises to keep advocating for your Internet freedoms—freedom of speech, privacy, net neutrality and freedom to innovate, inside and outside court.As a supporter-funded organisation, we depend on your donations of money and time. Volunteer, pledge and donate. Become an Internet Freedom Fighter!