WhatsApp users are being forced to accept a privacy policy, according to the Centre’s letter to the Delhi High Court.

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The Centre has informed the Delhi High Court that WhatsApp is attempting to “force” its users to consent to the new privacy policy before the Personal Data Protection Bill becomes law by bombarding them with reminders on a daily basis.

The central government has asked the court to order WhatsApp to stop sending alerts to its existing users about the new privacy policy, calling it a “anti-user activity” for collecting “trick consent.”

The argument was made by the Centre in an additional affidavit filed in response to multiple petitions challenging WhatsApp’s new privacy policy. A lawyer, Chaitanya Rohilla, moved one of the pleas, which was the first to be filed, in January of this year.

Rohilla, who is represented by lawyer Manohar Lal, claims that the amended privacy policy infringes on users’ constitutional right to privacy, and that they can either accept it or abandon the app, but they can’t choose not to share their data with other Facebook-owned or third-party apps.

According to the complaint, WhatsApp’s new privacy policy permits unfettered access to a user’s online activities without any regulatory oversight. The Centre believes that the privacy policy violates the regulations because it fails to describe the types of sensitive personal data collected and fails to tell users about the sensitive personal data obtained in its supplemental affidavit, which backs up the petitioners’ concerns.

Furthermore, the policy does not allow users to review or change their information, does not allow users to withdraw consent retrospectively, and does not guarantee ongoing nondisclosure by third parties, according to the affidavit.

WhatsApp was also accused of “engaging in anti-user practises by gaining ‘trick consent’ from users for its amended privacy policy,” according to the report. “It has been reported that millions of existing WhatsApp users, who have not approved the new 2021 privacy policy, are being flooded with notifications on a daily basis,” the company said.

WhatsApp “has unleashed its digital capabilities on the unwary existing users and would want to force them to accept the modified 2021 privacy policy by flashing such alerts at regular intervals,” according to the authorities.

“The game plan is extremely obvious,” the government wrote in its affidavit, “to transfer the whole existing user base committed to the amended 2021 privacy policy before the Personal Data Protection (PDP) Bill becomes law.” The government has asked WhatsApp to keep track of the number of times such notifications have been given out on a daily basis to date, as well as the conversion rate, or how many people have accepted the amended privacy policy in relation to the number of notifications.

According to the central government, WhatsApp “has access to personal, sensitive, and business data of hundreds of millions of Indian users and has also acquired the role of a ‘essential digital service’ during the COVID-19 pandemic,” making it critical that its privacy policy and terms of service “should be examined on the touchstone of privacy principles as laid down in K.”

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