The petition is a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Dr. Seema Singh and others, which contends violation of the right to privacy under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution by denying users a choice to protect their personal data and opt-out of the policy. Parties who do not consent will be denied access to the messaging platform once the new policy is implemented. The petitioners also raise the concern of personal data being shared and used by Facebook companies and other third parties for commercial purposes. They thus asked the court to direct the withdrawal of the policy or require parties to be given the option to opt-out.
The central government has submitted that WhatsApp policy violates the IT Rules, 2011, because it fails to specify the types of personal data to be collected, to notify user details of the collection of sensitive personal information, to provide an option to review or amend the information collected, to provide an option to withdraw consent retrospectively and to guarantee further non-disclosure by third parties.
Due to overwhelming criticism, WhatsApp had in January postponed the implementation of the policy to start from May. The challenge to WhatsApp’s policy is part of a larger concern that India does not yet have specific legislation for the protection of personal data privacy. Consequently, the government faces a regulatory hurdle in requiring tech platforms to comply with privacy principles while handling user data.