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Delhi HC turns down Facebook’s plea to stop probe into WhatsApp’s privacy policy

Facebook says it received 40,300 govt requests for user data in the second half of 2020


Delhi HC turns down Facebook’s plea to stop probe into WhatsApp’s privacy policy

The Delhi High Court on Thursday turned down the petitions filed by Facebook and its subsidiary WhatsApp challenging the Competition Commission of India’s order to probe into WhatsApp’s new privacy policy. The court said it found no merits in the plea challenging the CCI order and refused to quash the probe. A single Judge bench of Justice Navin Chawla said though it would have been “prudent” for the Competition Commission of India (CCI) to await the outcome of petitions in the Supreme Court and the Delhi HC against WhatsApp’s new privacy policy, but not doing so would not make the regulator’s order “perverse” or “wanting of jurisdiction”.

The CCI had contended that it was not examining the alleged violation of individuals’ privacy which was being looked into by the Supreme Court. It had argued before the court that 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.

On March 24, CCI had directed its investigation arm, the director-general, to complete the inquiry within 60 days after prima facie finding that the Facebook-owned company has violated competition law provisions through its “exploitative and exclusionary conduct” under the garb of the policy update.”There is no question of jurisdictional error,” it had contended and added that WhatsApp and Facebook’s pleas challenging its decision were “incompetent and misconceived”.

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CCI had also told the court that only after the investigation can it be determined whether the data collection by WhatsApp and sharing it with Facebook would amount to an anti-competitive practice or abuse of dominant position. It had also contended 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”.

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