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UPI Data Sharing With Third Party App: Supreme Court Seeks Response From WhatsApp

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The recent update on WhatsApp sends shockwaves throughout the country. The question of how safe is one’s privacy and how protected is one’s data privacy in our country rose yet again. Several PILs have been filed in the Supreme Court of the country raising the issue of data privacy especially associated with the sharing of UPI data with third-party apps.

Matter of Contention

The Supreme Court asked WhatsApp to reply to the plea filed by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the National Payments Corporation of India (NCPI) to ensure the data that the UPI data associated with these apps are not shared to the parent company (Facebook) or any other third-party apps.

Several pleas have been filed before the Supreme Court with respect to WhatsApp’s updated privacy policy. Most of these pleas filed post the WhatsApp’s statement that the update affected business accounts only was in the direction of the need for assurance that the UPI data that WhatsApp has access to is not exploited or misused, it sought assurance that the data would not be used for any purpose other than the processing of payments.

Arguments

RBI and NCPI represented by Senior advocate Krishna Venugopal and V Giri said that defendants had not yet filed a counter-affidavit in response to the Court’s question of the spyware breach by the Israeli spyware company Pegasus. RBI also added that the duty to conduct an audit of UPI and to ensure that the private firms properly followed norms rested with NCPI.

WhatsApp represented by Senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Arvind Dattar argued that ‘WhatsApp Pay’, WhatsApp’s payment service had received all necessary permissions for its services. They also contended that they did not receive a formal notice on the impleadment of framing of proper regulations for data protection.

Decision

The Supreme Court on analysing the arguments put forth by both the petitioner and the defendants directed WhatsApp to reply to the queries that the petitioner had put forth. Non-compliance of the same, the Court directed would lead to taking into acceptance the averment Rajya Sabha MP Binoy Viswam had filed in his plea.

This decision comes in succession to the notice issued to RBI in October 2020, regarding the framing of regulations to ensure proper utilisation and protection of data collected on UPI platforms in the backdrop of Amazon, Google and Facebook being permitted to start UPI functions in India in response to the plea filed by Mr. Viswam.


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