Mulling law for online data protection, Centre tells Supreme Court

New Delhi, April 18:

The Centre on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that it was actively considering to put in place a law to protect data and curb sharing of individual data on social networking sites and online messaging services.

Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told a Constitution Bench of Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.K. Sikri, Justice Amitava Roy, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice Mohan M. Shantanagouda that the government is mulling a framework for data protection like the one existing in the United Kingdom and the United States.

Telling the court that data protection applies to a host of online platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, Paytm, and Twitter, Rohatgi sought adjournment in the case till Diwali by which time, he said, something would emerge.

The court was hearing a plea by Karmanya Singh Sareen and others who have challenged a Delhi High Court September 23 order by which it allowed WhatsApp to roll out its new privacy policy but said it cannot share the data of its users collected up to September 25, 2016, with Facebook or any other related company.

Appearing for Sareen, senior counsel Harish Salve told the apex court that if a regulatory framework is put in place it would be good and they can then focus on the specifics and argue the case.

He said he hoped both the petitioner and the social networking site Facebook and online messaging service WhatsApp may agree to the regulatory framework that the government is considering.

“If law comes and provide for regulation, then it is OK,” the court was told.

Even though the Centre sought an adjournment of the hearing so that it could undertake the exercise of putting in place the law for data protection, the court asked Salve to frame the questions that would be addressed to the court in the course of hearing by the Constitution Bench.

As Salve said that they would frame the questions, senior counsel Kapil Sibal, appearing for WhatsApp, raised objection to the case’s hearing by the Constitution Bench, questioning what constitutional issues were involved.

He said any hearing by the Constitution Bench is preceded by framing of questions that would be addressed by it.

Sibal told the bench that whatever has been told to it by the petitioners does not apply to his client as they were not sharing messages, contents, data, and voice messages with any third party and everything was encrypted.

Sibal told the court that WhatsApp is compliant with the Information Technology Act and the 2011 privacy law and so no part of the content exchanged between two individuals is ever revealed to the third party.

The court directed for next hearing on April 27. (IANS)

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