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Can’t leave 160 million WhatsApp users ‘trapped in a corridor of Charity’ : Supreme Court

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New Delhi, May 16, 2017: Online messaging service WhatsApp on Tuesday sought to assure the Supreme Court that it has never shared the contents of the messages between its users with third parties even as the top court said that it could not leave 160 million users “trapped in a corridor of charity”.

The five-judge constitution bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra indicated that it would examine the 2016 privacy policy of the online messaging app on the reopening of the court after its summer vacations.

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Besides Justice Misra, the bench includes Justice A.K. Sikri, Justice Amitava Roy, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice Mohan M. Shantanagoudar.

The court said that it would examine the new privacy policy, which WhatsApp had brought in 2016, after it was acquired by the social networking site Facebook, on the grounds whether it was contrary to public policy and whether it was required to be put to constitutional controls.

However, this would happen only if the court comes to conclusion it required judicial interference, said the bench in course of the hearing of a plea by petitioners Karmanya Singh Sareen and Shreya Sethi who have challenged the Delhi High Court’s September 23, 2016 order allowing WhatsApp to roll out its new privacy policy but stopping it from sharing the data of its users collected up to September 25, 2016, with Facebook or any other related company.

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Tuesday was the second day of the hearing and further hearing would take place after top court reopens after summer vacations. On Monday, the court had asked WhatsApp why it changed its policy of non-sharing of data of users after its acquisition by Facebook ito permit sharing of the attributes of its users.

Resuming his arguments on the maintainability of the petitions challenging the Delhi High court verdict, senior counsel K.K. Venugopal, appearing for Facebook, said: “We can file an affidavit stating that not a single piece of information has been shared with anybody. Even I cannot access the information if I want to. There is no element of human intervention in the process. Machines take care of this.”

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He said that any fundamental right – be it of communication or choice of communication – could only be invoked against the state and not against a private entity like WhatsApp, which was not discharging public functions. He argued that petitioners challenging its 2016 new privacy policy will have to first approach the regulatory authorities – TRAI.

He said that regulations framed under the Information Technology Act in 2009 and 2011 covered WhatsApp – a position contested by the petitioners who are contending that these regulations have been outpaced by the technological advancements.

Reiterating that it was in no position to go into the contends of the messages exchanged between its users as they were in encrypted form, senior counsel Siddharth Luthra, appearing for WhatsApp, told the bench that it was not generating meta data and all that was being shared was contact details, profile photo and status of the users of the App.

Lawyer Madhvi Divan, appearing for the petitioners, said that WhatsApp was using public resource like spectrum and was performing public functions.

Comparing it with telephone services, Divan said while one was paying for availing telephone services, WhatsApp was free but describing its operation as “economic espionage in the name of free service”, urged the bench to look at their business model. (IANS)

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Facebook is Testing Paid Subscription Options For Private Groups

The group quickly became an active community for helping tens of thousands of people across the world to reduce clutter in their spaces

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Facebook is Testing Paid Subscription Options For Private Groups
Facebook is Testing Paid Subscription Options For Private Groups. Pixabay

Facebook will soon let group administrators charge members for providing exclusive content on its platform.

Parenting, cooking and home cleaning private groups on the social networking platform will be the first ones to access the new feature as part of a pilot programme.

“We’re piloting subscriptions with a small number of groups to continue to support group admins who lead these communities,” Alex Deve, Product Director, Groups at Facebook, said in a blog post on Wednesday.

Subscription groups align with the experience that Facebook made available to support video creators earlier in 2018.

Sarah Mueller started a group called “Declutter My Home” on Facebook as a way to inspire and motivate others to tidy up their apartment or house.

Representational image.
Representational image. Pixabay

The group quickly became an active community for helping tens of thousands of people across the world to reduce clutter in their spaces.

“With her new subscription group, ‘Organise My Home’, members will be able to work together on bite-sized projects, and have access to easily actionable checklists, tutorials, live videos and more to help with home organisation,” Facebook said.

“With the new ‘Organize My Home’ subscription group, I will be able to provide this new community with more interactive ways to having an organised home like mini-projects, group challenges, training, and live Q&A,” Mueller noted.

Also Read: Facebook rolls Out Several Monetisation Products

According to a report in The Next Web, group administrators will be able to charge up to $29.99 (monthly) during the pilot.

“For now, Facebook won’t be collecting a cut of the subscription fees,” the report added.

For members, they are now able to sign-up and manage their subscription through the Facebook app for iOS and Android. (IANS)