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SC to hear Facebook’s plea for transfer of cases

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the plea of Facebook for transfer of cases related to demands for linking of user-profiles with Aadhaar that are pending before the Madras High Court, Bombay HC and Madhya Pradesh HC to the apex court. 

The Supreme Court issued a notice to the Centre and social media platforms such as Google, Twitter, WhatsApp, YouTube and others and sought their response by September 13. The SC bench stated that the hearing in cases related to linking of user-profiles with Aadhaar that are pending before the Madras High Court will continue to be heard in the court but no final order will be passed on the case.

The order came after Facebook filed a transfer petition last week, seeking a transfer of the Aadhaar-social media linking the case to the Supreme Court. Facebook is against the move of linking user profiles with Aadhaar, as it feels that sharing of the 12-digit Aadhaar number would violate privacy policy of users. Facebook stated that it cannot share the Aadhaar number with a third party as the content on its instant messaging app, Whatsapp is end-to-end encrypted and they also do not have access to it.

Aadhaar-social media linking case: Background

The original PIL seeking interlinking of user profiles on social media with the Aadhaar database for authentication of identity was filed by Antony Clement Rubin in July 2018.

The plea was supported by the Tamil Nadu government, which told the Supreme Court recently that the user profiles on social media platforms need to be linked with Aadhaar to keep a check on circulation of fake, defamatory, anti-national and terror-sponsoring material.

Following the submission of the petition, Madras High Court division bench comprising Justices S Manikumar and Subramonium Prasad expanded the scope of the PILs to include issues including curbing cybercrime and intermediary liability.

The case currently involves the central government, Tamil Nadu government and social media platforms such as Facebook, Google and Twitter.

The outcome of the case could impact the social media platforms, majorly WhatsApp, as the PILs seek to enable traceability to help law enforcement agencies catch the perpetrators of misinformation and rumours on the various social media platforms.

Facebook-owned WhatsApp sees traceability as a violation of user privacy and India is the largest market for WhatsApp, with a whopping user count of 400 million.

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