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WhatsApp Obtaining 'Trick Consent' From Users for Updated Privacy Terms: Centre to Delhi HC

WhatsApp image used for representation.

WhatsApp image used for representation.

Earlier this May, WhatsApp's controversial privacy policy kicked in, and the Facebook-owned messaging platform said that it would remind those who still have not accepted the updated terms.

The union government has again challenged WhatsApp’s new privacy terms and told the Delhi High Court in a petition that the Facebook-owned company is indulging in “anti-user practices" by obtaining “trick consent." As reported by news agency ANI, the Centre further claimed that WhatsApp unleashed its “digital prowess" upon existing users in India to collect personal data before the Personal Data Protection Bill becomes law. The government has also alleged that the way WhatsApp is pushing its current notifications to its users to accept its refreshed privacy policy is “against the very grain of prima facie opinion of the Competition Commission of India’s order dated March 24, 2021." The Centre urged the Delhi High Court to issue an interim direction to the company to desist from sending push notifications onto users related to the updated 2021 privacy policy. The petition notes that WhatsApp must place on the record the number of times such notifications are being pushed daily along with their conversion rate.

Earlier this May, WhatsApp‘s controversial privacy policy kicked in, and the Facebook-owned messaging platform said that it would remind those who still have not accepted the updated terms. The company had also said that those who have not agreed to its latest policy would lose select functionalities over time, which was later retracted.

“Given recent discussions with various authorities and privacy experts, we want to make clear that we currently have no plans to limit the functionality of how WhatsApp works for those who have not yet accepted the update. Instead, we will continue to remind users from time to time about the update as well as when people choose to use relevant optional features, like communicating with a business that is receiving support from Facebook," a statement from the company read.

Meanwhile, the Centre’s latest development comes nearly a week after WhatsApp filed a lawsuit at the Delhi High Court challenging the government’s newly implemented new digital rules that require companies to provide access to encrypted messages. “Requiring messaging apps to ‘trace’ chats is the equivalent of asking us to keep a fingerprint of every single message sent on WhatsApp, which would break end-to-end encryption and fundamentally undermines people’s right to privacy," a WhatsApp spokesperson said. However, the government has emphasised that the new norms will not impact the normal functioning of the popular free-messaging platform, and the IT Ministry has turned up the heat on significantly large social media companies such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and WhatsApp asking them to report their status on compliance with the new rules, which have come into effect.

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