SC to Centre: Planning norms for social media companies?

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The query came from a bench of Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose while hearing a plea by Facebook. (File photo)

The Supreme Court on Friday sought to know if the Centre was planning to draw up guidelines to link social media accounts with Aadhaar number of users to ensure cyber law compliance.

The query came from a bench of Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose while hearing a plea by Facebook, urging it to transfer to itself four petitions pending before the High Courts of Madras, Bombay and Madhya Pradesh, which, according to the firm, seeks linking of Aadhaar with social media accounts.

“If Union of India is saying they are contemplating something in the very near future, then it may have a bearing on the case,” the bench said. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, stated he will take instructions and get back to the court.

Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for one of the social media platforms, said he will show that it was not just in realm of contemplation, but consultations were underway.

Mehta also submitted that the Centre had no objection if the petitions were transferred, but added substantial judicial time had already been spent on the matter in Madras High Court.

The bench said it will not look at the merits of the case and will only decide whether they need to be transferred or not.

Facebook had contended that the matter raises questions of privacy of users and that the question whether service providers can be asked to share data with probe agencies to help them in criminal investigation will have global ramifications and should be settled by the apex court.

Replying to Facebook’s plea Thursday, the Tamil Nadu government had hit out at the website, saying its concern for user privacy was “fallacious” given its own “business model”. The state government had referred to the “Cambridge Analytica Scandal” to buttress the charge.

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