Must Balance Privacy With Governance Needs: Top Court On Facebook's Plea

The Supreme Court issued notice to Facebook, Twitter, Google, YouTube, the centre and Tamil Nadu asking for their response by September 13

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Must Balance Privacy With Governance Needs: Top Court On Facebook's Plea

Facebook and WhatsApp asked that all petitions be transferred to the Supreme Court.


New Delhi: 

There has to be a balance between data privacy and how much information the government needs to check crime, the Supreme Court said today while hearing Facebook's request that all cases in different states related to demands for linking Aadhaar to social media accounts be clubbed together and heard by the top court.

Cases being heard by the high courts of Madras, Bombay and Madhya Pradesh and Orissa swirl around whether governments and investigation agencies should get access from tech companies to trace the origin of "anti-national and defamatory statements", apart from porn.

The court issued notice to Facebook, Twitter, Google, YouTube, the centre and Tamil Nadu asking for their response by September 13 on whether the petitions should be transferred from high courts across India to the Supreme Court.

"There is a conflict between privacy and how the government should run the country when crimes are committed. There has to be a balance...under what condition information can be given and to whom," the Supreme Court said.

Facebook and WhatsApp said it was a matter of high magnitude and affected the privacy of the entire nation. "If a person copies YouTube and sends as a WhatsApp message then who is the originator? It's a huge problem," argued the social networking giant.

On Monday, the Tamil Nadu government had told the Supreme Court that social media profiles of users need to be linked with Aadhaar numbers to check the circulation of fake, defamatory and pornographic content, besides "anti-national and terror material".

Facebook Inc has resisted the state's suggestion on grounds that the sharing of the 12-digit Aadhaar number, the Biometric Unique Identity, would violate its privacy policy for users.

The Tamil Nadu government, which is hearing a case related to the deadly Blue Whale game - in which users have to complete 50 tasks, the final one being suicide -- argued that the centre was struggling to find out who the creator of the game was and who gives the directions. "Someone says he is a young person from Russia. A number of people have died in India playing the Blue Whale. Let the Madras High Court continue with its hearing," said Attorney General KK Venugopal, representing Tamil Nadu.

The Supreme Court said: "We are aware of Blue Whale. What is happening in dark web is worse than Blue Whale. The idea of the Madras High court expanding the issue was that if need be, shouldn't the intermediary inform the police about details of person for crime detection? We are not examining the merits of the case, only dealing with the transfer of the cases to the Supreme Court."



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