WhatsApp Privacy Policy Probe on Competition Aspect, CCI Tells Delhi High Court


The new privacy policy of WhatsApp would lead to excessive data collection and “stalking” of consumers for targeted advertising to bring in more users and is therefore, an alleged abuse of dominant position, competition regulator CCI told the Delhi High Court on Tuesday. The submission was made before Justice Navin Chawla by senior advocate Aman Lekhi on behalf of the Competition Commission of India (CCI) in defence of its order directing an investigation into the new privacy policy of messaging platform WhatsApp.

The CCI was looking into the competition aspect and not the alleged violation of individuals’ privacy which was being looked into by the Supreme Court, Lekhi said. “There is no question of jurisdictional error,” he said and added that WhatsApp and Facebook’s pleas challenging the CCI’s decision were “incompetent and misconceived”.

WhatsApp and Facebook, represented by senior advocates Harish Salve and Mukul Rohatgi, have challenged the CCI’s March 24 order directing a probe into the new privacy policy.

The high court which reserved its order in the matter was told by Lekhi that whether the data collection by WhatsApp and sharing it with Facebook would amount to an anti-competitive practice or abuse of dominant position can be determined only after the investigation.

He argued that the data collected, which would include an individual’s location, the kind of device used, their Internet service provider and whom they are conversing with, would lead to creation of a customer profile and preference which would be monetised by way of targeted advertising and all this amounts to “stalking”.

He also said that the investigation ordered was only an administrative proceeding which did not have any civil consequence at this stage.

The two social media platforms have contended that when the top court and the Delhi High Court were looking into the privacy policy, then CCI ought not to have “jumped the gun” and intervened in the issue.

They contended that CCI’s decision was an abuse of the commission’s suo motu jurisdiction. They said the issue of the policy being unfair to consumers was being considered by the apex court and therefore, CCI ought not to have taken up the issue.

In January, the CCI on its own decided to look into WhatsApp’s new privacy policy on the basis of news reports regarding the same.

Does WhatsApp’s new privacy policy spell the end for your privacy? We discussed this on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and wherever you get your podcasts.

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