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WhatsApp’s new policy rules; CCI finds prima facie ‘Abuse Of Dominance’, orders probe

(Asian News Hub) – In a significant development, the Competition Commission of India on Wednesday ordered a probe into the new privacy policy of WhatsApp, after making a prima facie observation that it was violative of the Competition Act 2000.

‘..the Commission is of the considered opinion that WhatsApp has prima facie contravened the provisions of Section 4 of the Act through its exploitative and exclusionary conduct, in the garb of policy update’, said the order passed by the CCI.

The CCI observed that the privacy policy terms on sharing of personalised data with Facebook companies was ‘neither fully transparent nor based on specific, voluntary consent of users’.

‘On a careful and thoughtful consideration of the matter, the conduct of WhatsApp in sharing of users’ personalised data with other Facebook Companies, in a manner that is neither fully transparent nor based on voluntary and specific user consent, appears prima facie unfair to users.

The purpose of such sharing appears to be beyond users’ reasonable and legitimate expectations regarding quality, security and other relevant aspects of the service for which they register on WhatsApp. One of the stated purposes of data sharing viz. targeted ad offerings on other Facebook products rather indicates the intended use being that of building user profiles through cross-linking of data collected across services. Such data concentration may itself raise competition concerns where it is perceived as a competitive advantage’, the 21-page order of the CCI said.

It made a prima facie observation that the policy was an abuse of dominant position resulting in violation of Section 4 of the Competition Act.

‘The impugned conduct of data-sharing by WhatsApp with Facebook apparently amounts to degradation of non-price parameters of competition viz.quality which result in objective detriment to consumers, without any acceptable justification.

Such conduct prima facie amounts to imposition of unfair terms and conditions upon the users of WhatsApp messaging app, in violation of the provisions of Section 4(2)(a)(i) of the Act’.

The anti-trust regulator termed the privacy policy terms ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ terms set by a dominant messaging platform, without providing much information to the users, and observed that the policy prima facie appeared to be ‘unfair and unreasonable’.

‘..users are required to accept the unilaterally dictated ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ terms by a dominant messaging platform in their entirety, including the data sharing provisions therein, if they wish to avail their service. Such ‘consent’cannot signify voluntary agreement to all the specific processing or use of personalised data,as provided in the present policy.

Users have not been provided with appropriate granular choice, neither upfront nor in the fine prints,to object to or opt-out of specific data sharing terms,which prima facie appear to be unfair and unreasonable for the WhatsApp users’.

The CCI bench comprising Ashok Kumar Gupta(Chairperson), Sangeeta Verma(Member) and Bhagwant Singh Bishnoi(Member) observed that ‘a thorough and detailed investigation is required to ascertain the full extent, scope and impact of data sharing through involuntary consent of users’.

Accordingly, the Commission directed the Director General (‘DG’) to cause an investigation to be made into the matter under the provisions of Section 26(1) of the Act. The Commission also directed the DG to complete the investigation and submit the investigation report within a period of 60days from the receipt of this order.

The Commission has clarified that the observations are preliminary in nature and will not amount to a final expression of opinion on the merits of the case. ‘The DG shall conduct the investigation without being swayed in any manner whatsoever by the observations made herein’, the order added as a caveat.

Notably, the order has been passed in a suo moto case taken by the Commission titled ‘In Re: Updated Terms of Service and Privacy Policy for WhatsApp Users’.

WhatsApp LLC and Facebook Inc were arrayed as opposite parties in the case.

The suo moto case was taken by the Commission on January 19, 2021, based on the reports about the new privacy policy update of the messenger platform.

It is also pertinent to note that the Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has taken a stand against the new privacy policy of WhatsApp. In an affidavit filed in the Delhi High Court in response to a PIL challenging the policy, the Centre has urged the Court to restrain WhatsApp from implementing the new policy, pending the passage of the Personal Data Protection Bill.

Abuse of dominance

Section 4 of the Act proscribes abuse of dominance by an entity commanding dominant position in relevant market.

The CCI noted that WhatsApp is dominant in the relevant market for OTT messaging apps through smartphones in India, as was held in an earlier decision.The Commission further noted that the previous privacy policies of WhatsApp dated 25.08.2016 as well as 19.12.2019 provided users an option to choose not to have their WhatsApp account information shared with Facebook.

However, under the latest policy, this choice is no longer available to users.

In this regard, the CCI observed :

‘This(removal of opt-out choice) implies that data of users, including that of those who are not users of any other service within the Facebook family of companies, will now be shared across Facebook Companies.

Simply put, it appears that consent to sharing and integration of user data with other Facebook Companies for a range of purposes including marketing and advertising, has been made a precondition for availing WhatsApp service’.

This ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ policy of WhatsApp requires further examination as to whether it violates the provisions of the Competition Act.

The Commission also took note of the ‘strong lock-in effect’ for users as regards their dependence on WhatsApp for messaging services.

Switching to another platform for users gets difficult and meaningless until all or most of their social contacts also switch to the same other platform. Users wishing to switch would have to convince their contacts to switch and these contacts would have to persuade their other contacts to switch. Thus, while it may be technically feasible to switch, the pronounced network effects of WhatsApp significantly circumscribe the usefulness of the same.

It noted that despite the increased downloads of alternate platforms like Telegram or Signal, the user base of WhatsApp has not suffered significant loss.

The Commission further opined that users, as owners of their personalised data, are entitled to be informed about the extent, scope and precise purpose of sharing of such data by WhatsApp with other Facebook Companies.

However, it appears from the Privacy Policy as well as Terms of Service (including the FAQs published by WhatsApp), that many of the information categories described therein are too ‘broad, vague and unintelligible’.

For instance, information on how users ‘interact with others (including businesses)’is not clearly defined,what would constitute ‘service-related information’, ‘mobile device information’, ‘payments or business features’, etc.are also undefined. At numerous places in the policy, while illustrating the data to be collected, the list is indicative and not exhaustive due to usage of words like ‘includes’, ‘such as’, ‘For example’, etc., which suggests that the scope of sharing may extend beyond the information categories that have been expressly mentioned in the policy.

‘Such opacity, vagueness, open-endedness and incomplete disclosures hide the actual data cost that a user incurs for availing WhatsApp services. It is also not clear from the policy whether the historical data of users would also be shared with Facebook Companies and whether data would be shared in respect of those WhatsApp users also who are not present on other apps of Facebook i.e.,Facebook, Instagram, etc’, the CCI said in the order.

With Agencies

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Hindi Diwas 2021: People from Kashmir to Coimbatore brainstormed in Prabhasakshi’s discussion

(Asian News Hub) – Scholars from Kashmir to Coimbatore participated in the discussion organized by Prabhasakshi News Network on Hindi Diwas.

In the discussion on ‘Future of Hindi language in the digital age’ everyone thought about how Hindi can progress by taking all regional languages ​​together.

The challenges being faced by Hindi in the digital age were also discussed. In the inaugural session of the online discussion, Mr. Sanjay Dwivedi, Director General, IIMC, Delhi gave his views, after which young litterateur Dr. Indira Dangi suggested measures for the prosperity of Hindi language.

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The people associated with the discussion also enjoyed the poems of Mr. Sarvesh Kumar Asthana, Dr. Mrs. Manjari Pandey, Ms. Aakriti Vigya Arpan, Mr. Tara Chand Tanha and Mr. Ashok Jhanjhati, who have mesmerized people with their compositions on national and international fora.

In the welcome address, Neeraj Kumar Dubey, editor of Prabhasakshi.com, while wishing everyone a happy Hindi Diwas said, “It is a matter of great pleasure that this time Hindi Diwas has come in the middle of the ten-day Ganeshotsav, so we pray that Lord Shri Ganesh is ours. Give more prosperity to Hindi and fame to all Indian languages. More collaboration can be done.

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Sanjay Dwivedi, Director General, IIMC, Delhi said, “In the present times, Hindi’s danka is ringing in the country and the world. It is also a matter of feeling proud of Hindi because we speak a language which has the biggest word world. Which has a great tradition of creators.

India has the largest number of internet users after China and the US. He said that many new journalists have emerged through digital medium. Replying to a question during the Q&A session, Shri Dwivedi said that it is true that in this age of social media, language is being spoofed but we should go ahead by including everyone in this development journey. He said that when any language develops, there are problems in it. English people speak differently. Similarly, Hindi is also enriched by mixing dialects of different states. Shri Dwivedi said that language is like a flowing river. There is no need to bother with it.

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Addressing the program, Dr. Indira Dangi, who was awarded the Sahitya Akademi’s Young Literary Award, said that language is a medium. How you present yourself in life and career has to be seen. He said that the meaning of Hindi Diwas is only when we celebrate it every day instead of celebrating it for one day.

Smt. Dangi also said that children should not shy away from teaching English but should also be taught mother tongue.

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During the discussion, Dr. Smt. Manjari Pandey, a writer and poet associated with Varanasi, said that today we are talking about digital revolution, but today there is a need for knowledge revolution. He said that the website of all the departments should be in Hindi.

Apart from the comic poet Sarvesh Asthana who is also known as Smile Man in the discussion, besides the poems of Ms. Aakriti Vidhya Arpan from Gorakhpur, Mr. Tara Chand Tanha from Ayodhya and Mr. Ashok Jhanjti from Lucknow and Mr. Nirbhay Shukla from Gorakhpur, the present also enjoyed the poetry.

At the conclusion of the program, Neeraj Kumar Dubey said that many programs are being organized across the country on Hindi Diwas today and in these programs all kinds of resolutions are being taken for the upliftment of our official language.

The development journey of Hindi, which unites the country in one thread, continues and the resolutions taken can be converted into accomplishment, for this, the younger generation will have to make their full contribution.

He said that the way we celebrate Valentine’s Day, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day and all such ‘days’ with great pomp and share their related pictures on social media, if we celebrate Hindi Diwas with the same enthusiasm, then it will be pleasant. The result is sure to come.

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Man loses 21kg weight after marriage due to cruelty, high court grants divorce

(Asian News Hub) – The Punjab and Hrayana High Court upheld the decision of a Hisar Family Court granting divorce to a physically challenged man with 50 per cent hearing loss & using a hearing aid, who had alleged that his weight had dropped from 74kg to 53kg due to mental cruelty by his wife.

Dismissing the plea filed by the man’s wife against the family court order, the High Court mainly relied on the fact that all criminal complaints and cases filed by the woman against her husband, his family were found false, which amounts to mental cruelty.

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The division bench, comprising Justice Ritu Bahri, Justice Archana Puri, passed the orders while dismissing the petition filed by a woman from Hisar, seeking quashing of the order dated Aug 27, 2019, through which the Family Court had allowed her estranged husband’s plea & granted divorce.

The couple had got married in April 2012 and have a daughter. The man works in a bank & the woman is a teacher in a private school in Hisar.

Their daughter lives with her father. The wife alleged harassment at hands of her in laws. The man’s case was that his wife was hot-tempered and spendthrift who never tried to adjust herself in his family.

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According to him, she used to pick up fights over small matters due to which he felt humiliated in front of his parents and relatives, but kept silent, believing that good sense would prevail upon her in the near future, but her behaviour never changed.

Accusing his wife of cruelty, the man alleged before the Court that he weighed 74 kg till the time of marriage, but his weight had fallen to 53 kg after that. Denying the allegations, the woman contended that she always performed her marital obligations with love and respect.

She also alleged that after 6 months of marriage, her husband and his family members started harassing and humiliating her for dowry.

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During the hearing of the case, the HC found that the woman had left her husband in 2016 & had also left her daughter in the matrimonial house and never tried to meet her. It also came to the fore that the husband’s family had never demanded any dowry & had even paid for the woman’s higher studies after the marriage.

The HC also found that false complaints were also filed by the woman against her husband and his family members.

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‘Keeping in view that the appellant was an educated woman, she was aware of the effects of criminal complaints, which she had made against her husband and his family members in 2013 and 2019. Moreover, he was looking after his three-year-old daughter alone after his wife had left the matrimonial home in the year 2016. All this amounted to mental cruelty,’ observed the High Court while dismissing the woman’s petition against divorce.

AGENCY

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Akshay Kumar’s mother Aruna Bhatia passes away, actor pens emotional note

Akshay Kumar’s mother passes away, actor pens emotional note

(Asian News Hub) – Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar’s mother Aruna Bhatia passed away on Wednesday morning. The actor took to Instagram and shared the sad news with his fans and followers. She was admitted on Friday, September 3, evening in Mumbai’s Hiranandani Hospital. She was in critical condition. He wrote, “She was my core. And today I feel an unbearable pain at the very core of my existence. My maa Smt Aruna Bhatia peacefully left this world today morning and got reunited with my dad in the other world. I respect your prayers as I and my family go through this period. Om Shanti.”

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Akshay Kumar, who was shooting for his film Cinderella in the UK for the past couple of weeks, flew back after her mother was admitted to ICU.

Updating about the same, the actor on Tuesday took to social media and wrote that it is a ‘very tough’ time for his family and him. He thanked his fans and well-wishers for their concern and said “Touched beyond words at your concern for my mom’s health. This is a very tough hour for me and my family. Every single prayer of yours would greatly help.” 

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On the professional front, Akshay Kumar was last seen in his recently released film “BellBottom.” The film became the first major Bollywood film to release in theatres after the second wave of the novel coronavirus. 

Directed by Ranjit M Tewari, it also stars Lara Dutta, Huma Qureshi and Vaani Kapoor. The spy thriller featured Akshay as a RAW agent who goes on a mission to save passengers of a hijacked flight. While, Lara essayed the role of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who was in power at that time, Vaani played Akshay’s wife in the film. 

The film did not release in Maharashtra, Assam, Tamil Nadu and Kerala as theatres are shut there.

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Apart from ‘Cinderella.’ Akshya has ‘Raksha Bandhan’, ‘Sooryavanshi’, ‘Prithviraj’, ‘Ram Setu’ and ‘Bachchan Pandey’ in the pipeline.

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