The center told the Delhi High Court that the social messaging platform WhatsApp tried to “force” its users to agree to the new privacy policy before the Personal Data Protection Act became law, sending them daily notifications to obtain their consent.

The central government referred to the notification of WhatsApp bombing its customers as an “anti-user practice” to obtain “deceptive consent.” The central government has urged the court to instruct the messaging platform to stop pushing notification policies about new privacy to its existing users.

The center’s statement was made in an additional affidavit in response to several requests that challenged WhatsApp’s new privacy policy.

A WhatsApp spokesperson responded to the affidavit: “We reiterate that we have responded to the Indian government and assure them that user privacy remains our top priority. As a reminder, the latest update will not change people’s personal information. Privacy. Its purpose is to provide more information about how people choose to interact with businesses.”

“We will not limit the functionality of WhatsApp’s way of working in the next few weeks. Instead, we will continue to remind users from time to time about updates and when people choose to use related optional features, such as communicating with companies supported by Facebook. We hope This approach can strengthen the choice of all users whether they want to interact with the company. At least until the upcoming PDP law comes into effect, we will maintain this approach,” the spokesperson added.

In January of this year, lawyer Chaitanya Rohilla made one of these requests, and this was the first request made.

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Rohilla, represented by the advocate Manohar Lal, argued that the updated privacy policy violates the privacy rights of users under the Constitution. They can accept or opt out of the application, but they cannot choose not to interact with other Facebook-owned or third-party applications .

The request claims that WhatsApp’s new privacy policy allows full access to users’ online activities without any government supervision.

In the additional affidavit supporting the petitioner’s claim, the center stated that the privacy policy violated the rules because it did not specify the types of sensitive personal data collected, nor did it notify users of the details of the sensitive personal information collected.

The affidavit stated that, in addition, the policy does not provide users with the option to view or modify information, does not provide the option to withdraw consent retrospectively, and does not guarantee further confidentiality by third parties.

It also stated that WhatsApp is “obsessed with anti-user practices by obtaining’deceptive consent’ from users for updated privacy policies.”

“According to the submission, millions of existing WhatsApp users, those who have not accepted the updated 2021 privacy policy, are bombarded with notifications every day,” it said.

The government stated that WhatsApp “has released its digital capabilities to unsuspecting existing users and hopes to force them to accept the updated 2021 privacy policy by flashing such notifications on a regular basis”.

“The game plan is very clear, that is, before the Personal Data Protection (PDP) Act becomes law, the entire existing user base of the 2021 privacy policy promised to be updated will be transferred,” the government said in its affidavit.

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The government has sought instructions from WhatsApp to record the number of such notifications sent each day and the conversion rate—that is, how many people have accepted the updated 2021 privacy policy versus the number of notifications.

The central government further stated that WhatsApp “currently has access to the personal, sensitive and commercial data of hundreds of millions of Indian users and has acquired the role of’basic digital service’ during the COVID-19 pandemic”, and therefore, its privacy policy and services The clause “should be reviewed in accordance with the touchstone of privacy principles set out in the KS Puttaswamy Supreme Court decision”.

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