Right To Privacy And New WhatsApp Policy

Recently, WhatsApp updated its privacy policy, which came into limelight due to some of its terms and conditions being regarded as irrelevant. This happened because of numerous gossips (knowingly or unknowingly) being spread on various social media platforms with respect to the new policy violating the user’s fundamental right to privacy.

The Right to Privacy is protected as an intrinsic part of the Right to Life and Personal Liberty as stated under Article 21 in Part III of the Constitution of India. Further, Article 21 is a very fascinating development in the Indian Constitutional Jurisprudence and is often regarded as the heart of Fundamental Rights.

The Supreme Court proclaimed the Right to Privacy as a Fundamental Right ensured under the Constitution of India through the landmark case of Puttaswamy vs. Union of India, September 26th, 2018 popularly known as the Aadhar case. However, the SC affirmed that it should not be independently articulated but can be gotten from articles 14, 19, and 21 of the Constitution of India. It is a characteristic right that stays alive as a fundamental part of one side to Life and Liberty. The SC suffered to clearly state that the Fundamental Right to Privacy is not absolute and would always be subjected to reasonable restrictions. It also concluded that the state could impose restrictions on the Fundamental Right to Privacy to protect legal state interests.

Now coming up on the topic of the new WhatsApp privacy policy which will come in force from February 8, 2021, privacy experts and antitrust bodies are raising alarms on it. They are saying that WhatsApp would be sharing the user information with Facebook and other business third-party service providers that transact on these platforms. However, WhatsApp has claimed that personal messages and call logs are protected by end-to-end encryption so nobody can access the chats.

While going through the terms of the new privacy policy it was found that WhatsApp clearly stated that users’ messages are stored on their devices rather stored on the server. When the messages get delivered, they get automatically deleted from the servers also, but, if they remain undelivered (e.g., offline recipient), the message is stored on the server for up to 30 days in encrypted form.

Some more alarming terms were further discovered in the new policy including the device and connections information, in which the aforementioned mobile application collected device and connection-specific information where users install, access, or use the services. This included information such as hardware model, operating system information, battery level, signal strength, browsing information, mobile network, the connection information including phone number mobile operator or ISP, language and time zone, and IP address.

Even major threats were discovered in the location clause of the new policy. It stated that the application will collect and use precise information from the user’s device with his permission when one chooses to use a location-related feature like when he decides to share his location with his Contacts or view locations nearby shared to him. Even if he does not use location-related features, the aforementioned mobile application will view the IP address and other information like phone number, area code to estimate a user’s general location. Users’ location information could also be used for diagnostics and troubleshooting purposes, but to be clear the connection between troubleshooting or diagnostics with the users’ location information cannot be legitimately explained.

As stated under the “Information we Collect” segment of the new policy, WhatsApp would share some more information with other companies like Facebook. That information may consist of account registration, opening records, phone number, transaction data, service letter information, business information and IP address.

WhatsApp is found clearly mentioning that it can ban a user’s account without any prior notification being provided to him if it finds him violating any of the terms for services or whatever the case may be. Therefore, it could be confidently stated that its extremely important for the user to sincerely go through all the terms and conditions with their amendments done, before willing to provide with his valuable permission to WhatsApp.  

Disclaimer- The views expressed are personal.


Youkteshwari Prasad

2nd Year

Amity Law School, NOIDA

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