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The Supreme Court has decided to intervene to protect the privacy of citizens, the apex court of the country announced as it issued a notice to social media giants Facebook and WhatsApp seeking their response to the plea regarding WhatsApp’s latest privacy policy. It was alleged that under the new policy, WhatsApp planned to share the data of its users with Facebook and other companies.

A bench headed by CJI SA Bobde and justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian said that the privacy of people must be protected and that people were apprehensive about the loss of their privacy in regards to the latest privacy policies of WhatsApp. The Supreme Court also issued a notice in connection with the matter.

“People have general apprehension about loss of privacy. You may be a two or three trillion-dollar company but people’s privacy is more valuable. It is our duty to protect their right to privacy,” the bench said, hinting that an intervention will be on the cards if the privacy policy was implemented.

CJI Bobde said, “We are telling you what we heard and read. People think that if A sends a message to B and B to C, the circuit of messages is revealed to Facebook.”

The privacy policy in question was announced to be implemented on February 5, but the uproar and the notice from the government pushed the date back to May 15.

Senior advocate Shivam Diyan, who represented petitioner Karmanya Singh Sareen, alleged that WhatsApp differentiated between India and Europe in terms of the privacy policy, saying that the set of rules for India were different. He also indicated that the central government had taken a serious view of the matter and that it was unfair for having different privacy policies for India and Europe.

“We pray that privacy standards are not lowered for Indian users by WhatsApp…They should be barred from sharing data with Facebook,” Divan said, adding that WhatsApp had come up with the new privacy policy in January which undermines the privacy of Indian users compared to the European counterparts.

The plea also asked WhatsApp not to “lower privacy standards for Indian users, and to apply the same privacy policy and terms of use to Indian users as is being applied in the European Region”. In reply, WhatsApp responded that Europe had a special law on privacy and it would comply if India came up with a similar law.

Senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Arvind Datar, appearing for WhatsApp and Facebook respectively, denied the allegations.

Facebook and WhatsApp have been given four weeks to give a reply.