Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook has been challenged, and the challengers in this case are two Indian students -- Shreya Sethi and Karmanya Singh Sareen.

The duo is going after the social networking giant by filing a public-interest litigation (PIL) in the Delhi High Court asking for a complete rollback of the recent policy updates made by WhatsApp, the famous messaging service that Facebook owns. Sethi and Sareen want the Delhi High Court to order the Indian government to come up with its own guidelines for the various messaging apps being currently used in the market so that the privacy of millions of their users isn't on the line and compromised.

After receiving the PIL, the two-judge bench which is examining the petition has issued notices to WhatsApp, Facebook, the Indian government and India's telecommunications regulator, and has asked them to present their stand on the issue for the court.

WhatsApp, one of the most used messaging apps all around the world, recently revisited and revised its privacy policy so as to share the data of its users with Facebook and allow businesses to do more targeted advertising and direct messaging. The move isn't only facing resistance from India, but similar emotions have been evoked all around the world. In fact, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and the European Union are currently carrying out a thorough examination so as to find out if Facebook has wronged the trust of billions of WhatsApp users. There has been also a news of a certain German consumer group considering to sue Facebook for its misdeed.

However, WhatsApp is maintaining that privacy changes announced last month, in August, are in total compliance with the law. According to the company, it's currently giving its users time to react to change, and in fact, the users even have an option of turning off data sharing with Facebook from within the app.

In a brief hearing in Delhi last week, WhatsApp had revealed that it has no intention of sharing any user content with its owner Facebook except their users names and phone numbers. It also stressed on the fact that the use of the app is completely voluntary.

According to the petition filed by the 19-year-old engineering student, Singh and 22-year-old Sethi, the recent privacy changes made by WhatsApp highly compromises with the security, safety and privacy of data that belongs to the app's users. It also states that “user consent” as a term holds no relevance in a county like India where majority of the users aren't equipped to read or understand the consequences of the privacy policy changes made by WhatsApp. The petitioners also claim that WhatsApp has been successful in building a substantial user base in India because of its assurance of complete privacy and hence, its recent changes are a complete breach of users’ trust.

It isn't the first time that WhatsApp has faced a lawsuit over user privacy and advertising. In fact, the company has quite a decorated past in this particular department. In a settlement with the FTC in the year 2011, the company had agreed that it would ask its users for permission before making changes to its privacy practices. The FTC is currently evaluating if the recent changes made by WhatsApp violate its 2011 agreement with the company.

It is interesting to note when Facebook acquired WhatsApp in the year 2014, WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum had ensured that nothing would change in terms of privacy for its users.

In a blogpost around the recent privacy changes, WhatsApp had said, "Not WhatsApp, not Facebook, nor anyone else. We won’t post or share your WhatsApp number with others, including on Facebook, and we still won’t sell, share, or give your phone number to advertisers."

While no one can surely predict how will the case pan out, one thing is for sure, Facebook does have a lot at stake in India. Facebook currently has over 150 million users in the country, a figure second only to U.S. WhatsApp, on the hand, has over 70 million users in the country.

[Top Image - Shutterstock]

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