Supreme Court mulls plea to bring WhatsApp under govt regulations

The Supreme Court has asked the government and Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to respond to a plea concerning social networking sites like WhatsApp and Facebook. The petition wants there to be a set privacy policy which regulates the exploitation of private communication for commercial purposes.

The Supreme Court bench, consisting of Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice D Y Chandrachud, further issued notice to WhatsApp and Facebook seeking their opinion on the matter within 2 weeks. The plea alleges that these platforms compromise the privacy of over 150 million Indians.

As per PTI, the petitioners argued that the conduct of services like WhatsApp violate Article 19 (Freedom of Speech and Expression) and Article 21 (Right to Life) of the Indian constitution. Senior advocate Harish Salve appearing on their behalf also claims the latter includes the Right to Privacy.

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Salve also pointed out that TRAI policy dictates that intercepting calls without permission from the government is illegal, but the authority isn’t doing anything in WhatsApp’s case. He further believes the application has become a public utility service like telephone calls and should thus be regulated.

Chief Justice Khehar responded to the arguments by stating that WhatsApp is a free service and they can take it or leave it if they want to protect their privacy. He also stated that people pay for telephone calls and are thus guaranteed safety. On the other hand, the chat app is free and private.

The Supreme Court order comes a few months after the Delhi High Court told WhatsApp to delete all user data for individuals who had opted out of the platform before September 25 following the app’s controversial privacy policy change. However, it didn’t put a stop to the new policy itself.