“Privacy is not an option, and it shouldn’t be the price we accept for just getting on the internet.” – Gary Kovacs.
The world is gradually heading towards digitalization, with nearly everyone now owning a smartphone and being technologically connected to one another. As per the report released by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), the broadband internet subscriber base in India was 698.23 million at the end of June 2020. The exponential increase in digitalization in India is also attributed to the Government’s Digital India Programme. However, this digital drive comes with its fair share of cons which can have severe implications on the users.
WhatsApp’s new policy is intended for users worldwide only with an exception for people residing in the European region, people in that region have a choice to opt-out of the policy without deleting their app account, which thereby created a distinction on the basis of the region i.e. European and Non-Europeans Citizens. Now a question arises that why are non-Europeans being discriminated against? Why is there a difference in the European region which cannot be made applicable to the users in India? The reason for this disparity is the existence of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which prohibits data sharing by organizations located in that zone without an express opt-out option available to customers. Article 6 of GDPR deals with the lawfulness of the processing- It means that data sharing will only be lawful if certain conditions are being complied with. It is one of the stringent data protection laws in the world. It came into effect in May 2018 and puts legal obligations on organizations across the world as long as they use data related to people of the EU. With this policy European Union maintains a strong stance against data security and privacy of individuals. As a result of the presence of such effective and rigorous laws, corporations operating there are obligated to follow them, which is not achievable in India due to ineffective restrictions.
Current Data Protection Framework of India
Why is the Government against this Policy?
Personal Data Protection Bill- Why is it important?
Despite the reports of various committees the big tech companies continue to abuse the loopholes in the data protection legislation. An important challenge is large unprotected data that will be accessible to rival companies which can be used for unethical purposes. This can lead to serious privacy issues for individuals and have security implications for the nation. When the country today is fighting the threats of data protection, these policies by companies like WhatsApp add to the potential threats.
Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva while hearing the case remarked that users always have the option of not giving their consent and the policy is completely voluntary in nature. He also suggested the existing users of Whatsapp switch to other platforms such as Signal or Telegram which could provide reliable communication services. However a major section of the society is dependent upon WhatsApp as it has got certain inherent advantages for example- the design of the app, the consistent use of it for many years, and the accessibility of the WhatsApp services even in low bandwidth area adds to its advantage and hence makes it difficult for the users to shift to another application of similar accessibility. Competition Commission of India has also observed that WhatsApp is misusing its dominant status to enforce arbitrary policies.  It is also critical to raise user knowledge about the consequences of such policies on their data, many individuals still do not understand what this policy is all about and frequently give their consent without understanding the implications. Therefore, a community with a large part of its population using the internet should run digital awareness efforts to create awareness in the public.
Conclusion and Way Forward
Every individual has the right to privacy, as enshrined in the Constitution of India, and it is the State’s responsibility to protect that right. Privacy of data is not a privilege rather an essential condition which companies ought to follow.
Trai.gov.in (2020), https://trai.gov.in/sites/default/files/Report_09112020_0.pdf (last visited Jun 1, 2021).
K. S.Puttuswamy v. Union of India, (2017) 10 SCC 1.
 The Information Technology Act, 2000 § 43, No 21 Acts of Parliament 2000.
 Rule 4 of the 2011 Rules.
 Rule 5(1) of the 2011 Rules.
 Rule 6 of the 2011 Rules.
 The Information Technology Act, 2000 § 72, No 21 Acts of Parliament 2000.
 Personal Data Protection Bill § 11, Bill No. 373 of 2019
 Personal Data Protection Bill § 20, Bill No. 373 of 2019
 Personal Data Protection Bill § 23, Bill No. 373 of 2019
The Hindu, WhatsApp and its dubious claims, 2021, at 7.
Supra, note 19.
Supra, note 9.
Edited By: Ayush Verma
*Disclaimer: The content of this article is intended to provide a piece of general information. The views are expressed by the Author solely and BFTLR may or may not subscribe to the views of the Author.