Published: Sun, July 23, 2017
Markets | By Noel Gibbs

Privacy of personal data part of right to life, Centre tells SC

Privacy of personal data part of right to life, Centre tells SC

The bench was hearing matters pertaining to a user's right to privacy and whether WhatsApp sharing user information with its parent company Facebook, violated the a citizen's right to privacy.

Any attack on data is an attack on "Right to Life", the Centre told the apex court.

As arguments heated up between senior advocates Harish Salve and Kapil Sibal, who crossed swords for the petitioner and WhatsApp, respectively, additional solicitor general P S Narasimha stepped in and said, "Personal data is an extension of an individual's personality".

"Data connected to my personality is an integral part of my life with if any contractual obligations impinge on Article 21, then that needs to be regulated", the ASG said.

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But all concerned, including the bench and all sides to the dispute, agreed that the issue of privacy would need to be addressed.

The court, after hearing the submissions, fixed the matter for further hearing on September 6 when a nine-judge bench is likely to pronounce its verdict on right to privacy in Aadhaar case.

The stand though is contradictory to the one the government has taken in the Aadhar case.

Salve accused WhatsApp of taking advantage of its near monopoly in the free messaging platform to force users to believe that if they did not agree with the privacy policy, they would not be able to enjoy the service.

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Sibal raked up the issue of why only WhatsApp has been targeted in the petition, saying that the platform has an end-to-end encryption and messages or data shared can not be accessed by anyone. "It is not about injury in common law is about constitutional protection", said the court. Why a petition has been filed against WhatsApp only.

"One can not be allowed to impose conditions to curtail one's right of free choice in matters of public utility", it said. "Are you not curtailing free choice?"

The submission was made before a five-judge constitution bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra which was examining the contentious issue of 2016 privacy policy of WhatsApp.

"Merely because you (WhatsApp) are a service provider, you can not say that I will open your letter and read it", he said, adding, "This court has the jurisdiction to hear this matter".

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