HC verdict likely on Thursday on WhatsApp, Facebook pleas against CCI order for probe

New Delhi, Apr 21 (PTI) The Delhi High Court is likely to pronounce verdict on Thursday on pleas by social media platforms Facebook and WhatsApp challenging competition regulator CCI’s order directing a probe into the latter’s new privacy policy.

Justice Navin Chawla had on April 13 reserved judgement on the two separate petitions by Facebook and WhatsApp.

While reserving its decision, the court had observed that the order of the Competition Commission of India (CCI) does not reflect an investigation into abuse of dominant position and rather appears to be concerned with privacy issues of consumers.

The observation came in response to CCI’s stand that it was not examining the alleged violation of individuals’ privacy which was being looked into by the Supreme Court.

CCI 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.

“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”. ? ?

WhatsApp and Facebook have challenged the CCI’s March 24 order directing a probe into the new privacy policy.

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.

CCI 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”.

The two social media platforms, on the other hand, had 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 had also said that CCI’s decision was an abuse of the commission’s suo motu jurisdiction.

They claimed that the CCI in the instant case has “drifted far away” from the competition aspect and was looking into the privacy issue which was already being looked into by the apex court and the Delhi High Court.

The?two social media platforms had also told the court that private conversations continued to be protected by end to end encryption and WhatsApp cannot read what people message each other.

They had also contended that the most of the data generated belonged to WhatsApp as the only data provided by customers was their phone number which is required to register on the messaging platform.

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.

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