Justice SA Bobde Justim AS Bopanna and Justice V Ramasubramaniam said WhatsApp, Facebook, Google Pay, Amazon Pay, and the central government should file a reply in the matter. The supreme court has directed all parties in the case to file a reply in four weeks.
The Supreme Court on Monday sought answers on the issue of security of UPI payment data of instant messaging app WhatsApp. The supreme court said that WhatsApp should ensure that it does not share the data of the Unified Payment Interface (UPI) platform with its parent company Facebook or any third party, following the RBI and NPCI guidelines. Justices SA Bobde, Justice AS Bopanna, and Justice V Ramasubramanian said that WhatsApp, Facebook, Google Pay, Amazon Pay, and the central government should file a reply in the matter. The supreme court has directed all parties in the case to file a reply in four weeks.
There is an allegation of violation of rules
A petition in the case was filed on behalf of Binoy Viswam, a Rajya Sabha MP from the Communist Party of India (CPI). The petition has demanded a regulation so that the UPI payment platform cannot be misused. According to Vishwam, how can these companies be allowed UPI payment service despite the alleged violation of RBI and NPCI UPI guidelines. The petition sought guidelines from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) regarding payment services by Google, Amazon, Facebook, and WhatsApp to follow the rules to protect data from misuse.
WhatsApp has received approval
Binoy Vishwam has alleged that Google, Amazon, Facebook and WhatsApp are not following the UPI payment system in India, causing misuse of data of Indian citizens. According to Senior Advocate V Giri, presented by the Reserve Bank of India, he has filed an answer in this matter. On behalf of WhatsApp, Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal said that WhatsApp has received all the necessary approvals.
The affidavit said: “It is submitted that RBI’s directions issued vide circular dated April 6, 2018, on storage of payment system data pertain only to payment date storage and not sharing or privacy. RBI has not issued any instructions on data sharing by TPAPs (Third Party Application Providers) or the participants of UPI. Matters related to data privacy and data sharing come under the domain of Government of India.” It said that since NPCI is the owner and operator of the UPI, it would be more appropriate for them to respond on the status of “compliance of WhatsApp with the system rules/procedural guidelines governing UPI”.
Earlier, WhatsApp had denied in the Supreme court the allegations that its data can be hacked by Israeli spyware Pegasus, which had led to a controversy last year over breach of privacy following claims that Indian journalists and human rights activists were among those globally spied upon by unnamed entities. Prior to this, the apex court on October 15, last year had issued notice to RBI and others on the plea of Mr. Viswam seeking direction for framing regulation to ensure that data collected on UPI platforms are not “exploited” or used in any manner other than for processing payments.
It had also sought responses of the Centre, RBI, NPCI and others including Google Inc, Facebook Inc, WhatsApp and Amazon Inc on the plea.
“The RBI and NPCI have permitted the three members of ‘Big Four Tech Giants’ i.e. Amazon, Google and Facebook/WhatsApp (Beta phase) to participate in the UPI ecosystem without much scrutiny and in spite of blatant violations of UPI guidelines and RBI regulations,” the plea has claimed. The plea has alleged that this conduct of RBI and NPCI put the sensitive financial data of Indian users at huge risks, especially when these entities have been “continuously accused of abusing dominance and compromising data”, among other things.
It said these allegations have become particularly worrisome at a time when India has banned a host of Chinese applications on the ground that those applications were or could be used for data theft and could lead to security breaches. It has further sought a direction that RBI and NPCI should ensure that WhatsApp is not permitted to launch full-scale operations of ‘WhatsApp Pay’ in India without fulfilling all legal compliances to the satisfaction of the Supreme court regarding requisite regulatory compliances.