Supreme Court of India (File photo)
Supreme Court of India (File photo)

SC issues notices to Centre, social media majors on Facebook plea

ANI | Updated: Aug 20, 2019 15:54 IST

New Delhi [India], Aug 20 (ANI): The Supreme Court on Tuesday issued notices to the Centre, Twitter, Google, and YouTube on a plea filed by Facebook seeking transfer to the court petitions pending before different high courts, demanding interlinking of Aadhaar database with social media profiles.
Several petitions are pending before Madras, Bombay and Madhya Pradesh High Courts seeking their direction for the interlinking of Aadhaar data with social media accounts for identity authentication.
A bench of Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Aniruddha Bose said the Madras High Court shall continue hearing the pleas but shall not pass any order.
The apex court will further take up the matter for hearing on September 13. The petition was filed by the social media giant last week.
Facebook and WhatsApp told the bench that the matter should be adjudicated by it and sought transfer of petitions pending before high courts to the top court as any order passed against them will have global ramifications.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Facebook, argued that the issue is of such a magnitude that only the top court should take a decision on it. "It affects the privacy of the whole nation. This is the policy matter," he said.
Rohatgi further argued that any order passed by the high courts will have wider ramifications as Facebook is a global entity and it has to abide by laws of different nations.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for WhatsApp, told the court that the Central government is concerned about the messaging platform's end-to-end encryption and it is looking into it to frame some guidelines.
"While the government is dealing with this matter, let all the pleas come here. This can't be decided by high courts, it's a policy issue and should be decided by the Supreme Court. These are very serious issues," Sibal added.
Attorney General K K Venugopal, appearing for the Tamil Nadu government, contended that 18 hearings have taken place on the petitions in the Madras High Court and the judgement would come in another month. "Facebook should not object to it," he said.
Citing the example of the controversial Blue Whale challenge, he argued that the social media platforms should provide details about the origin of a message.
"Online games like the Blue Whale caused deaths in India because service providers did not provide details of the 'originator'. We had a serious situation during the Blue Whale game. Government of India struggled to find out about its originator, some said it's from Russia. Government is not equipped to detect the originator," Venugopal said.
He further said: "It is pertinent for social media platforms to share data with law enforcement agencies to ensure criminal activities like abetment to suicide or call for violence inter alia, through these platforms is curbed."
After hearing the arguments, the bench said that a balance has to be struck between the protection of people's privacy online as well as a mechanism to identify people who commit an online criminal offence.
"There is a conflict between the right to privacy and the duty to prevent crimes online. There is no doubt that there has to be a balance between the two," the court observed. (ANI)