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India takes Facebook to court challenging WhatsApp’s controversial privacy rule

Published: Updated:

India’s federal government has urged a Delhi court to restrain Facebook Inc.’s WhatsApp from implementing a controversial privacy policy, intensifying pressure on the popular messaging service in its biggest market by users.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government in a filing to the Delhi High Court alleged that WhatsApp Inc.’s proposed policy violates India’s technology laws on several counts, said advocate Meghan, who goes by one name. The lawyer had earlier petitioned the court challenging the messaging app’s new norms.

A spokeswoman for WhatsApp declined to comment.

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The court filing underscores the growing tussle between WhatsApp and the government of its most important market. The company is already facing challenges over the countrywide rollout of its payment service and has to contend with new guidelines that could require it to break its encryption to identify originators of unlawful messages on its platform.

India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology had earlier expressed concern over the altered privacy policy and in an email asked WhatsApp to withdraw the changes that have implications for Indian users’ freedom of choice.

WhatsApp’s privacy policy violates the country’s information technology laws as it fails to specify the nature of user data being collected or notify users about it, according to the filing. It also does not guarantee that third parties getting user data will maintain confidentiality.

In earlier court hearings on the new privacy policy, WhatsApp and Facebook have said they do not collect or share sensitive personal data.

The government had earlier slammed WhatsApp over differential treatment saying the privacy policy planned for India was different from that in Europe.

The court will next hear the case on April 28, Meghan said.

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