Indian students challenge Facebook over the new WhatsApp policy


Two Indian engineering students; Karmanya Singh Sareen and Shreya Sethi, challenged Facebook Inc. stating that sharing WhatsApp numbers of users with advertising companies for “relevant” ads threatens the right of millions of users.

The duo filed  filed a PIL, akin to a class action in Delhi High Court demanding that Facebook revert it’s recent policies, and also asked the government to frame guidelines for messaging apps to prevent a compromise of the privacy of its users. In their petition, Singh and Sethi said the new changes in WhatsApp’s policies compromise the privacy, safety and security data which technically belongs to its users, stating that the new WhatsApp policy is a breach of trust.

Additionally, they said the “user consent” didn’t mean much in India since quite a number of WhatsApp users can’t read or understand the consequences of the changes in the app’s policies.

By default WhatsApp messages are encrypted, but recently the Facebook owned messaging app announced that it will start sharing users’ phone numbers with its parent-company, according to WhatsApp, this was done so as to allow more relevant advertisements and friend recommendations on Facebook. Earlier on also the European privacy regulators announced that it wants to carefully examine the new WhatsApp policy. “Each European authority will be following the changes made to WhatApp’s privacy policy with great vigilance. What is at stake is the control of individual users over their own data when they are combined by major Internet players.”

WhatsApp Messenger was founded in 2009 by Brian Acton and Jan Koum, both former employees of Yahoo!. It is a proprietary cross-platform instant messaging client for smartphones. It uses the Internet to send text messages, images, video, user location and audio media messages to other users using standard cellular mobile numbers. The name “WhatsApp” was used because it sounded like “what’s up. As of February 2016, WhatsApp had a user base of up to one billion, making it the most globally popular messaging application.

WhatsApp Inc. is based in Mountain View, California and has been acquired by Facebook Inc. on February 19, 2014, for approximately US$19.3 billion.

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