Thursday, February 2, 2023

The Delhi High Court has dismissed Facebook and WhatsApp’s appeals against the CCI’s order to investigate privacy policies.

The Delhi High Court on Thursday dismissed Facebook and WhatsApp’s appeals against India’s competition regulator CCI’s order directing an investigation into WhatsApp’s latest privacy policy.

Though it would have been “prudent” for the Competition Commission of India to wait for the outcome of petitions in the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court challenging WhatsApp’s latest privacy policy, Justice Navin Chawla said that doing so would not make the regulator’s order “perverse” or “wanting of jurisdiction.”

Though it would have been “prudent” for the Competition Commission of India (CCI) to wait for the outcome of petitions filed in the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court challenging WhatsApp’s latest privacy policy, Justice Navin Chawla said that doing so would not make the regulator’s order “perverse” or “wanting of jurisdiction.”

The court ruled that Facebook and WhatsApp’s requests to halt the Competition Commission of India’s investigation were without substance (CCI).

The high court had previously reserved its decision in the case, stating that the order of the Competition Commission of India (CCI) does not seem to be concerned with consumer privacy concerns and instead reflects an inquiry into misuse of dominant position.

The remark was made in response to the CCI’s assertion that it was not looking into the alleged breach of individuals’ privacy that the Supreme Court was looking into. The CCI had claimed in court that WhatsApp’s new privacy policy would lead to improper data collection and “stalking” of customers for targeted ads in order to attract more users, and therefore would be an alleged violation of the dominant position.

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It went on to say that there was “no question of jurisdictional mistake,” and that WhatsApp and Facebook’s appeals were “incompetent and misconceived.”

CCI also advised the court that it would be impossible to decide whether WhatsApp’s data collection and sharing with Facebook constituted an anti-competitive activity or a misuse of the dominant position before the investigation was completed.

It also claimed that the information gathered, which included an individual’s location, the type of computer they were using, their internet service provider, and whom they were speaking with, would lead to the development of a consumer profile and preference that would be monetized by targeted ads, and that all of this amounted to “stalking.”

The CCI’s March 24 order ordering an investigation into the new privacy policy was questioned by WhatsApp and Facebook. When the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court were considering the privacy policy, the two social media sites argued that CCI should not have “jumped the gun” and interfered.

They also claimed that the CCI’s decision was a misuse of the commission’s suo motu authority, arguing that the CCI had “drifted far away” from the competition angle and was investigating the privacy issue, which was already being investigated by the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court.

They also said that end-to-end encryption continued to secure private messages and that WhatsApp cannot read what people message each other. The majority of the data produced belonged to WhatsApp because customers have only given their phone number, which is needed to register on the messaging platform, according to the company.

On the basis of news stories about WhatsApp’s latest privacy policy, the CCI agreed to investigate it on its own in January of this year.

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