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SC issues notice to WhatsApp, Facebook over new privacy policy

The Supreme Court has issued a notice to Facebook and WhatsApp over the new privacy policy of the messaging app. The SC bench said that it will have to intervene to protect the privacy of people if the new WhatsApp privacy policy is introduced.

New Delhi
February 15, 2021
UPDATED: February 15, 2021 13:59 IST



Supreme Court has issued a notice to central government, Facebook and WhatsApp over lower privacy standards for Indians users. (Photo: PTI)

The Supreme Court on Monday issued a notice to social media companies WhatsApp and its parent company Facebook in connection with a plea challenging the company’s new privacy policy. The plea filed seeks a stay on the operation of the new WhatsApp privacy policy.
The SC bench, headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde, sought responses from both WhatsApp and Facebook. The SC bench of SA Bobde, AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, added that it will have to intervene to protect the privacy of people if the new WhatsApp privacy policy is introduced.
The top court has also issued a notice to the central government in connection with the matter. The bench further said that Indian citizens have apprehensions regarding the privacy concerns with respect to the WhatsApp’s new privacy policy.

“You (Facebook and WhatsApp) may be a $2-3 trillion company, but people value their privacy more than money,” SC told Facebook and WhatsApp while issuing the notice.
WhatsApp had earlier announced that it would bring a new privacy policy and implement it from February 5. But after the government's notice, the date was extended to May 14. It is worth mentioning that WhatsApp's new privacy policy is different for India and Europe.
Senior counsel Shyam Divan appearing for the petitioner in the case alleged that WhatsApp was differentiating between Indians and Europeans in terms of privacy policy standards.
On behalf of the petitioner, Shyam Divan said that media reports indicate that the central government is taking the matter seriously. In this case, the central government has also sent a notice to WhatsApp.
Divan said that the privacy policy of WhatsApp cannot be different for India and added that the government should order WhatsApp not to implement the new privacy policy.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that no compromise will be made with privacy as it is the right of the people of the country.
Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, on behalf of WhatsApp, said that there is no threat to privacy from the policy.
However, CJI Bobde said that Facebook and WhatsApp should clarify their policy regarding data sharing. The central government, WhatsApp and Facebook have four weeks to reply in the matter.



SC issues notice to WhatsApp, Facebook over new privacy policy
 

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WhatsApp banned 2mn Indian accounts during May 15-Jun 15
Source: PTI - Edited By: Hemant Waje

Last updated on: July 15, 2021 23:52 IST


WhatsApp banned two million Indian accounts while it received 345 grievance reports between May 15 and June 15, the company said in its maiden monthly compliance report as mandated by the IT rules.



The new IT rules require large digital platforms -- with over five million users -- to publish compliance reports every month, mentioning the details of complaints received and action taken.
"Our top focus is preventing accounts from sending harmful or unwanted messages at scale. We maintain advanced capabilities to identify these accounts sending a high or abnormal rate of messages and banned two million accounts in India alone from May 15-June 15 attempting this kind of abuse," WhatsApp said on Thursday.



WhatsApp clarified that more than 95 per cent of such bans are due to the unauthorised use of automated or bulk messaging (spam).
"We expect to publish subsequent editions of the report 30-45 days after the reporting period to allow sufficient time for data collection and validation," WhatsApp said in the report.

The Facebook-owned company explained that the number of accounts banned have risen significantly since 2019 as the sophistication of systems has increased, and "so we are catching more accounts even as we believe there are more attempts to send bulk or automated messages".
The vast majority of these accounts are banned proactively, without relying on any user reports, it added.
About eight million accounts are banned/disabled globally on an average per month.
WhatsApp said besides the behavioural signals from accounts, it relies on available "unencrypted information" including user reports, profile photos, group photos and descriptions as well as advanced AI tools and resources to detect and prevent abuse on its platform.
In the report, WhatsApp said it had received 345 reports in total, cutting across categories such as ban appeal, account support, product support, safety issues and others.
Against this, 63 accounts were "actioned" by WhatsApp during May 15-June 15, 2021.
WhatsApp said user reports received by the platform via the grievance channel/s are evaluated and responded to.
Majority of users who reach out to WhatsApp are either aiming to have their account restored following an action to ban them or reaching out for product or account support, it added.
'Accounts Actioned' denotes reports where WhatsApp took remedial action based on the report. Taking action denotes either banning an account or a previously banned account being restored as a result of the complaint.
The IT rules -- which came into effect on May 26 -- mandate that significant digital platforms include the number of specific communication links or parts of information they proactively remove by using automated tools.
Other platforms like Google, Koo and Twitter have already submitted their compliance reports. Instagram and Facebook have also submitted their reports.
The IT rules have been designed to prevent abuse and misuse of digital platforms, and offer users a robust forum for grievance redressal.
Under these rules, social media companies will have to take down flagged content within 36 hours, and remove within 24 hours content that is flagged for nudity and pornography.

The rules also mandate appointment of three key personnel -- grievance officer, chief compliance officer and nodal officer. These officials need to be residents in India. Non-compliance with the IT rules would result in these platforms losing their intermediary status that provides them immunity from liabilities over any third-party data hosted by them.


WhatsApp banned 2mn Indian accounts during May 15-Jun 15
 
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