Credits: Wikimedia Commons

WhatsApp’s new privacy policy has become the talk of the town, as the controversies and issues surrounding it keep mounting up. The company has been trying to get the privacy policy steamrolled into effect one way or another, but so far, none of its moves have bore success. Now, the chatting platform is seeking the legal route to allay some of its problems, and has filed petitions in the Delhi High Court (along with its owner company Facebook), challenging the CCI probe into the new privacy policy, according to a report by Inc42, .

The order was passed by the CCI (whose primary function is to act as a watchdog of sorts, and look out for and eliminate any such practices which are seen as having an adverse effect on competition, and to promote and sustain healthy competition while protecting the needs of consumers) on March 24th, wherein it had called for the investigation to be completed within 60 days. Its order had read, “Today’s consumers value non-price parameters of services viz. quality, customer service, innovation, etc. as equally if not more important as price. The competitors in the market also compete on the basis of such non-price parameters. Reduction in consumer data protection and loss of control over their personalised data by the users can be taken as reduction in quality under the antitrust law.”

Both Facebook and WhatsApp hold that cases and arguments regarding the issues generated from the privacy policy update are already being heard before the Supreme Court, and ask for any of the CCI’s probes to be restrained till those pending cases are resolved.

One thing to note is that in its petition, Facebook objected to being investigated, citing that the social media business led by it, and the messaging platform provided by WhatsApp, are two completely different entities. However, it still proceeded to ask the Commission to present evidence to support its claim of WhatsApp’s dominance, before the investigation is allowed to proceed.

This CCI probe adds to the already-long list of challenges that WhatsApp has been facing ever since it announced the new update for its privacy policy early this year. In March, a counter-affidavit was filed by the IT Ministry of India in the Delhi High Court, seeking to restrain the official launch of the new privacy policy by the messaging platform. This move followed a petition, known now as ‘Dr. Seema Singh v. Union of India’, which sought for the central government to direct WhatsApp to either completely drop putting the privacy policy into effect, or at least allow users to have an option to out of it.

The filing by the government states that if it puts the new privacy policy into effect, WhatsApp will be violating the provisions under the Information Technology Act, 2000 and the rules made under it. Said rules are currently operational throughout the country, pending the passing of the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019, since it allegedly does not specify the kinds of sensitive personal data (SPD) it wishes to collect, and instead has relied on vague and generic terms to describe them. It also highlighted several previous instances where WhatsApp had failed to keep in line with the provisions of the Act and the IT Rules, 2011.

The changes in the policy were first announced by the giant in January, and it has repeatedly said that the change will mean nothing for users’ private and personal chats, which will continue to operate under end-to-end encryption. The major change will be for users who have business accounts, and will be in terms of how WhatsApp shares the data from their chats, with other companies under the Facebook Group (which also includes Instagram).