WhatsApp Privateness Coverage Not Withdrawn, Probe Should Proceed, CCI Tells Delhi HC

The Competitors Fee of India (CCI) Monday informed the Delhi Excessive Courtroom that WhatsApp’s up to date privateness coverage of 2021 has not been withdrawn and its probe in regards to the coverage must be allowed to proceed. The CCI additionally stated the scope of its inquiry has no overlap with the problem of an alleged infringement of consumer privateness pending earlier than the Supreme Courtroom. The submissions had been made by CCI earlier than a bench headed by Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma on appeals by WhatsApp LLC and Fb Inc in opposition to a single-judge order dismissing their problem to the probe ordered by the CCI into the moment messaging platform’s up to date privateness coverage.

The bench, additionally comprising Justice Subramonium Prasad, reserved an order on the appeals after listening to the involved events.

In January final yr, CCI by itself had determined to look into WhatsApp’s up to date privateness coverage primarily based on information stories relating to the identical.

WhatsApp and Facebook had subsequently challenged earlier than the one choose CCI’s March 2021 order directing a probe in opposition to them, saying that the problem regarding its new coverage was already pending consideration earlier than the excessive courtroom and the Supreme Courtroom.

The only choose on April 22 final yr had, nonetheless, refused to interdict the investigation directed by the CCI.

Further Solicitor Common (ASG) N Venkataraman, showing for CCI, argued that the CCI probe into the privateness coverage– which is “nonetheless in place and practical” — shouldn’t be deferred any additional to await the choice of the Supreme Courtroom, particularly within the absence of any keep on the one choose order, and asserted that the messaging platform was nonetheless issuing a “pop up” in search of the consent of customers who’re but to just accept the up to date coverage.

“Judicial course of can’t be used to thwart investigation …. (Pendency of privateness problem earlier than Supreme Courtroom) can’t robotically obviate competitors legislation issues. There is no such thing as a overlap in info. We must be allowed to analyze. There is no such thing as a overlap in legislation,” he argued The ASG stated that the infraction on the competitors legislation entrance should be occurring as there are customers who’ve opted for the coverage replace and “for non-withdrawal interval”, the coverage must be “examined.” ASG Balbir Singh, additionally showing for CCI, defended the initiation of a probe in opposition to Fb as nicely in reference to WhatsApp’s privateness coverage, saying that the previous is the holding firm of the messaging platform and it could “doubtlessly exploit the info being shared”.

ASG Venkataraman contended that the end result of the Supreme Courtroom proceedings would haven’t any bearing on the proceedings below competitors legislation which issues the abuse of dominant place by a market participant.

He additionally stated that until there’s a lack of jurisdiction or malafides or arbitrariness, the CCI probe can’t be stalled.

Counsel Tejas Karia, showing for WhatsApp, stated that the “establishment” was being maintained for customers who haven’t opted for the coverage replace and the CCI probe must be deferred in view of the validity of the privateness coverage being examined earlier than the Supreme Courtroom and the excessive courtroom.

Final week, senior advocate Harish Salve, representing WhatsApp, submitted that it was difficult CCI’s jurisdiction to probe a coverage that has now been stored in abeyance and because the authorities was within the course of to carry the Knowledge Safety Invoice.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, showing for Fb Inc –now Meta Platforms — had argued that there was not even prima facie materials within the case and CCI can’t examine it in a “creeping style”.

Whereas dismissing the petitions in opposition to the CCI probe, the one choose had opined that though it will have been “prudent” for the CCI to await the end result of petitions within the Supreme Courtroom and the Delhi Excessive Courtroom in opposition to WhatsApp’s new privateness coverage, not doing so wouldn’t make the regulator’s order “perverse” or “wanting of jurisdiction”.

CCI had argued earlier than the one choose that the brand new privateness coverage of WhatsApp would result in extreme knowledge assortment and “stalking” of customers for focused promoting to usher in extra customers and is, subsequently, alleged abuse of dominant place.

On January 3, whereas coping with the appeals in opposition to the one choose order, a bench headed by then Chief Justice DN Patel prolonged the time for submitting replies by Fb and WhatsApp to 2 CCI notices of June 2021 asking them to furnish sure data for the aim of inquiry carried out by it.

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