Whatsapp privacy policy: Delhi High Court to hear WhatsApp pleas against IT rules, CCI probe on August 27

Bengaluru: The Delhi High Court on Friday adjourned till August 27 the hearing of two separate pleas filed by WhatsApp, one challenging the “traceability” clause under the revised Information Technology Rules 2021, and a second one challenging a single judge order refusing to stay a Competition Commission of India (CCI) probe into the messaging platform’s new privacy policy.

A Division Bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh, which is hearing both matters, allowed for requests made by counsels appearing for the Union of India and CCI seeking for a week’s accommodation in both the cases, and adjourned the hearings to the later date.

In the petition filed by WhatsApp against the single judge order refusing to stay the CCI probe into the company’s new privacy policy, the court extended the time for WhatsApp to respond to notices issued by the CCI on June 4 and 8 seeking information from the company, until the next date of the hearing.

WhatsApp on July 9 had told the court that it would put on hold enforcement of its controversial privacy policy until a time when the Personal Data Protection Bill is enacted into a law. The Facebook-owned company has argued that the CCI’s probe into its privacy policy is an academic exercise as the PDP bill is yet to be passed.

Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing on behalf of WhatsApp, had told the court on July 9 that “If Parliament allows data sharing, then the CCI cannot say anything about the practice. If Parliament doesn’t allow me to do it, I have two choices — either I close shop in India, or I don’t do it.”

In its challenge to the government’s demand of significant social media intermediaries to be able to trace the origin of particular messages sent on their services, WhatsApp has told the court that doing so would put professionals, including journalists investigating issues that may be unpopular, at risk, apart from civil and political activists, and attorneys.

WhatsApp is the only US-based big tech company to have challenged the government’s revised IT Rules so far.

While Google too has approached the Delhi High Court over a matter related to the IT Rules, in its case Google is challenging a single judge order that has applied the IT Rules on its search engine, which the company has argued cannot be identified as a “significant social media intermediary” and therefore the rules do not apply to it.

Global social networking platforms, especially Twitter which failed to comply with the IT Rules that came into effect on May 26, have recently found themselves in a spate of litigation in India, as the government has tightened rules for these firms to setup more formal dispute redressal mechanisms for their users in India.

The new IT Rules have mandated the appointment of three key officers – Chief Compliance Officer, Resident Grievance Officer and Nodal Contact Person – by all social media intermediaries that have over 5 million active users in the country.

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