Personal data is integral to right to life: Centre tells Supreme Court

The petitioners have challenged WhatsApp’s policy of sharing user data with its new parent company Facebook, saying it amounts to infringement of fundamental rights under Articles 19 (freedom of speech and expression) and 21 (right to life) of the Constitution.

Written by ANANTHAKRISHNAN G | New Delhi | Updated: July 22, 2017 10:27 am
data protection, personal data, internet service providers, right to privacy, aadhaar, aadhaar act, india news, tech news The Centre assured the court that it will bring a regulatory mechanism to oversee services like WhatsApp to protect user data.

The Centre told the Supreme Court Friday that personal data was part of a person’s fundamental right to life and cannot be shared freely by internet service providers or social networking sites. The development comes at a time when a debate is on about the right to privacy and is contrary to the stand already taken by the government before the Supreme Court in the Aadhaar matter that citizens do not have a fundamental right to privacy.

“My (individual) personal data is intimate to me. It is an integral part of my right to lead a life with dignity. If there is any contractual obligation between the individual and the internet service provider and it impinges on the individual’s right (under Article 21), State will have to intervene and regulate sharing of such data,” Additional Solicitor General P S Narasimha told a five-judge Constitution Bench of Justices Dipak Misra, A M Khanwilkar, Amitava Roy, A K Sikri and M M Shantanagouder during a hearing on the WhatsApp privacy matter.

The petitioners have challenged WhatsApp’s policy of sharing user data with its new parent company Facebook, saying it amounts to infringement of fundamental rights under Articles 19 (freedom of speech and expression) and 21 (right to life) of the Constitution.

The Centre assured the court that it will bring a regulatory mechanism to oversee services like WhatsApp to protect user data.

Appearing for WhatsApp, senior counsel Kapil Sibal said the litigation was a vendetta by telecom companies which are afraid that it provides free calls and messaging services to users. WhatsApp had been singled out for attack and there was no litigation against any other messaging service in the country, he said.

Data is used to empower citizens, Sibal said and pointed out that the case will open a Pandora’s box as even services like Google which share information to enhance experience will be affected.

Senior counsel Harish Salve who appeared for the petitioner, denied the charge that there was any malafide intention behind the petition. The problem, he said, is WhatsApp can read my data, is collecting meta data and profiling data.

Pointing to the need for State intervention to regulate service providers, Salve asserted that telecommunications was a public duty and certain functions of the private enterprises were now public functions.

Sibal contended that WhatsApp does not share data with third parties and, hence, Salve’s submission was without substance.

The bench, meanwhile, asked Sibal why was the platform storing user data if it had no intention to share it. The court adjourned the matter for hearing on September 6 since a nine-judge Constitution Bench is currently hearing a plea in the Aadhaar matter to declare right to privacy a fundamental right.

Appearing for the Centre in the Aadhaar matter, Attorney General K K Venugopal, while referring to two earlier judgements of the court — in M P Sharma’s case of 1954 and Kharak Singh case of 1962 — had told the bench that there was no right to privacy in the Constitution.

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  1. R
    rohit dixit
    Jul 22, 2017 at 11:22 pm
    As SC rightly obsevered that Right to Privacy is not an absolute right and it would be impossible to comprehensively define -What exactly cons utes in Right to Privacy. Defining Right to Privacy would lead to Limiting it's scope. Thus it is a welcome move to go case by case as being done by govt in Adhar case- and in Whats app Privacy case.
    Reply
    1. P
      Paanchal Thakur
      Jul 22, 2017 at 3:36 pm
      Does one need any more proof of the Modi regime's blatant hypocrisy? Privacy is not a part of the fundamental right to life when it comes to Aadhaar. But it suddenly becomes a part of the fundamental right to life when it comes to WhatsApp!!! A magnificent feat of doublespeak!!! No wonder India is going to the dogs (sorry cows!) day by day.
      Reply
      1. S
        syed ansar
        Jul 22, 2017 at 10:11 am
        So, now its quite easy to decide for the SC bench which is hearing privacy case related to AADHAR .....government can't contradict her own stand on the same issue......
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        1. T
          Thisboyisgeek
          Jul 22, 2017 at 8:51 am
          Use signal app or threema to avoid Data misuse.
          Reply
          1. A
            Ajay Brahmnalkar
            Jul 22, 2017 at 8:33 am
            Even my face is my intimate and personal iden y. Am I allowed to cover it? If I want to live in society take all the benefits of it am I allowed the kind of privacy which is being debated? In such a large civil population which makes us faceless UIDAI is an attempt to give face to an individual for better administration. So let us not debate.
            Reply
            1. R
              Reader
              Jul 22, 2017 at 8:46 am
              You are very naive and ignorant about how the data can be misused.
              Reply
              1. D
                Deshbandhu
                Jul 22, 2017 at 11:18 am
                Ajay Bhau, Too much of Gau Mutr has made your mind Gobar. Jai Ho!
                Reply
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