Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), the telecom regulatory body, was also asked to determine if an instant messaging service such as WhatsApp could be could be brought under existing statutory framework. To this, TRAI responded that so far, “instant messaging applications have not yet been brought within the purview of the statutory regulatory framework.” On August 25, WhatsApp, issued a notification asking its users to accept the changes they made in its terms and conditions. According to the new terms, the instant messaging app would share the user information it collected with their parent company Facebook and all its group companies for commercial advertising and marketing on its platform.The information shared would include phone numbers and information on a user’s contact list.
This policy was challenged in the High Court through a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) by students Karmanya Singh Sareen and Shreya Sethi, who alleged that by sharing information, WhatsApp was “violation of fundamental rights of users.”The petitioners contended the new policy completely compromised the basic tenet of complete security and protection of privacy of the details and data belonging to users.It was this basic, yet extremely significant, essential and basic feature of this
internet-based messaging service, that attracted many of the users.However, the instant messaging app, defended its policy by stating that users were not obliged to use the application. Though, no notice was issued to the respondent, WhatsApp chose to enter appearance on its own accord and submitted a short affidavit, on September 19, detailing the key features of its new policy.In its affidavit, the respondents stated that not only WhatsApp did not store information on its servers beyond 30 days, it also gave the users the option to not share their information with Facebook.The policy, which is likely to take effect on 25 September, allows users not to accept the new policy by making changes in their WhatsApp settings and un-checking on the box allowing for sharing of information.
In order “to protect interest of users”, the bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Sangita Dhingra Sehgal directed WhatsApp to delete information and data of persons who opt out of the service before September 25 and not to share it with Facebook or its group companies.