Aadhaar-Social Media Linking: Supreme Court Agrees To Hear Facebook’s Plea For Transfer Of Cases
A person shows the Aadhaar app on his mobile phone. (Source: The Quint)

Aadhaar-Social Media Linking: Supreme Court Agrees To Hear Facebook’s Plea For Transfer Of Cases

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear Facebook Inc.’s plea for transfer of cases related to demands for linking social media user profiles with Aadhaar numbers.

These Aadhaar-social media linking cases are pending before the high courts of Madras, Bombay and Madhya Pradesh.

The Supreme Court issued notices to the Centre, Google parent Alphabet Inc., Twitter Inc., YouTube and others and sought their response by Sept. 13.

A bench of Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose said that the notices to the unserved parties should be sent through email.

Hearing of cases related to linkage of social media user profiles with Aadhaar pending before the Madras High Court will continue, but no final order will be passed, said the Supreme Court.

Attorney General KK Venugopal, appearing for the Tamil Nadu government told the bench that the Madras High Court has conducted 18 hearings so far and it should be allowed to conclude the argument and deliver the verdict in the cases.

Senior advocates Mukul Mohatgi and Kapil Sibal, appearing for Facebook and instant messaging app WhatsApp, respectively, said wether service providers can be asked to share data with probe agencies to help them in criminal investigation needs to be decided by the apex court as it will have a global effect.

They said that both Facebook and WhatsApp are international companies having their operation in over 150 countries and any findings by the Madras High Court would have a bearing on their global operations.

Venugopal referred to the Blue Whale game and said several young lives were lost due to directions given by the curator. He said governments did not get any clue about the curator in the Blue Whale game and therefore it is necessary to find out who is the originator of such messages on social media which are defamatory, terror-oriented or fake news.

Both Facebook and WhatsApp told the bench that Blue Whale game has nothing to do with their platforms and if data is shared with third parties, it will be a breach of privacy.

To this, the bench said it seems to be a conflict between right to privacy and right to govern the country and the court has to maintain a balance between the two.

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

Facebook is resisting Tamil Nadu’s suggestion on grounds that sharing of the 12-digit Aadhaar number would violate privacy policy of users.

The social media firm had said that it cannot share the Aadhaar number with a third party as the content on WhatsApp was under end-to-end encryption and even they do not have access to it.

It had contended that there are four petitions including —two in Madras High Court, one in Bombay and one in Madhya Pradesh High Courts —and they contained almost similar prayers.

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