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“This differential treatment is a cause for concern to the government,” the ASG said.
“The government is also concerned in the way Indian users have been subjected to these changes rather unilaterally. By not providing the Indian users the ability to opt out of this data being shared with other Facebook companies, WhatsApp prima facie seems to be treating Indian users with an all-or-nothing approach,” ASG Sharma said.
This, Mr. Sharma, said may infringe on Indian users’ interest in relation to information privacy and information security.
Though the issue “is between two private parties”, Mr. Sharma said, “the scope and expanse of WhatsApp makes it a germane ground that reasonable and cogent policies are put in place which is being done by the Personal Data Protection Bill”.
“The Personal Data Protection Bill is being discussed by the Joint Committee of the Parliament,” Mr. Sharma added.
Hearing adjourned to March 1
Taking note of the fact that the matter is being looked into at the highest level, Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva adjourned the hearing in the case for March 1, by which the Centre will place on record the steps being taken on the issue.
In the meantime, Justice Sachdeva declined to grant the plea of petitioner Manohar Lal to issue notice to WhatsApp.
Later, on January 16, WhatsApp took to micro-blogging site Twitter to clarify that, “No one will have their account suspended or deleted on February 8 and we’ll be moving back our business plans until after May”.
“WhatsApp has made a mockery out of our fundamental right to privacy while discharging a public function in India, besides jeopardising the national security of the country by sharing, transmitting and storing the users data in some another country and that data, in turn, will be governed by the laws of that foreign country,” the petition said.