In a recent ruling, the Supreme Court of India has issued a significant warning to WhatsApp users, especially those with prepaid mobile numbers planning to change their phone numbers. The court’s decision has important implications for WhatsApp users, as the platform is closely linked to a user’s mobile number. Here’s what you need to know about this ruling:
Reassignment of Deactivated Mobile Numbers:
The apex court has clarified that mobile service providers such as Airtel, Reliance Jio, and Vodafone Idea are allowed to reassign deactivated mobile numbers to new subscribers after a specific period.
Data Privacy Concerns:
The court underscored the importance of WhatsApp users taking precautions before changing their phone numbers to avoid potential privacy breaches. This involves deleting their data associated with the old phone number.
The court dismissed a petition filed by advocate Rajeshwari, who had sought direction from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) to instruct mobile service providers to stop issuing deactivated mobile numbers to new customers. The bench, led by Justices Sanjiv Khanna and SVN Bhatti, explained that it is the responsibility of the previous subscriber to safeguard their privacy. They can do this by deleting their WhatsApp account associated with the old number and erasing WhatsApp data stored on the local device memory/cloud/drive.
Alignment with DoT Guidelines:
The court’s decision aligns with the guidelines set by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) in April 2017. According to these guidelines, a mobile number that has been deactivated due to non-usage or disconnection at the subscriber’s request should not be reassigned to a new subscriber for at least 90 days. This policy allows the previous subscriber time to protect their privacy before the number is reallocated.
In summary, WhatsApp users in India are advised to be cautious when changing their mobile numbers, as the reassignment of deactivated numbers can pose privacy risks. Deleting WhatsApp data associated with the old number is a crucial step in ensuring the security of their information. The court’s decision aligns with existing DoT guidelines, emphasizing the importance of user privacy in an age of evolving telecommunications practices.