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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: WhatsApp Business App Has Over 3mn Users

WhatsApp Business app has over 3mn users: Facebook

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WhatsApp Business app has over 3mn users
WhatsApp Business app has over 3mn users. Pixabay

Over 3 million people are actively using WhatsApp Business app, says Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

He said this during the social media giant’s Q1 2018 earnings call, the VentureBeat reported late on Wednesday.

WhatsApp Business, a standalone app separate from the other version of WhatsApp used by 1.5 billion people, was launched in January for Android users in six countries including India, Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, Britain and the US.

WhatsApp Business competes with services like Apple’s Business Chat and RCS messaging for Android and Facebook’s own Messenger Platform, chat apps all built around connecting businesses with customers.

While WhatsApp Business is still being rolled out, conversational commerce through things like payments on Messenger will also be important to the social media giant, the report said.

The Facebook's image.
Facebook. Pixabay

“Over the next five years we’re focused on building out the business ecosystems around our apps like Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger,” Zuckerberg said.

“I think what you’re going to start to see are people interacting with Pages that you follow, Pages on Facebook or Instagram.

“You see content from that Page, and you can click through to a message thread, and then you can either get customer support or complete a transaction or do a follow-on transaction, and that will be very valuable for businesses so we view the payment in that context, not as the goal but as something that’s helping the business and the person succeed at having a transaction or doing what they’re trying to do,” Zuckerberg noted.

Also Read: This creepy app uses WhatsApp data to let users ‘spy’

WhatsApp Business, available on Google Play Store, makes it easier for companies to connect with customers, and more convenient for its users to chat with businesses that matter to them.

The new app, which is yet to come on Apple App Store in India, asks for a separate phone number from the one users have for their individual WhatsApp account.  IANS