WhatsApp privacy policy: Government working on data protection framework

Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told a five-judge constitution bench that the Trai was in the process of evolving the data protection framework.

The government today told the Supreme Court that it was in the process of putting in place a comprehensive data protection framework and sought deferment of the hearing on the WhatsApp privacy policy matter. Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told a five-judge constitution bench, headed by Justice Dipak Misra, that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) was in the process of evolving the data protection framework.

Rohatgi urged the bench that the hearing in the WhatsApp privacy policy matter may be deferred for a couple of months as the new policy might be finalised by then. “The government is actively mulling over a comprehensive data protection framework,” he told the bench.

The bench, which fixed the matter for hearing on April 27, asked senior advocate Harish Salve, who is appearing for the petitioner, to formulate the issues to be deliberated upon by it by August 24. The apex court had on April 5 referred to social media platform WhatsApp’s privacy policy matter to a constitution bench.

The apex court had on January 16 sought responses from the Centre and telecom regulator Trai on a plea that privacy of over 157 million Indians has been infringed by social networking sites – WhatsApp and Facebook – for alleged commercial use of personal communication.

The court had fixed 18 April as the date for hearing by the larger bench. Petitioners Karmanya Singh Sareen and Shreya Sethi had previously contended that under a new policy, WhatsApp could access, read, share and use the contents for commercial purposes and the same impinged on the privacy of its users.

The petitioners had said that it was the government’s duty to protect the people’s rights under Articles 19 and 21 of the Constitution and safeguard their privacy.

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