A PIL has been preferred in the Supreme Court for the protection and enforcement of right to privacy as recognised within the Fundamental Framework of the Constitution viz. Article 21, to the extent of data collated by smartphone companies through pre-installed applications.
Contentions in the Plea
The petitioner says that he is concerned about the privacy and security risks posed by mobile applications and smartphone company that are pre-installed on new Android smartphones manufactured, assembled, sold, and controlled by Chinese companies. The plea states,
“…the petitioner is concerned about the privacy and data theft of Indian smartphone users which is being done by Chinese smartphone companies. The present petition is necessitated in view of various researches having been conducted on the issue of data theft and compromise of privacy of a smartphone user through pre-installed applications in an android smartphone.”
It is stated that recently, more than 50 Privacy Security Groups including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and UK-based Privacy International had written to Google regarding pre-installed apps coming with new android smartphone companies.
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Their main concern was that the Android partners – who use the Android trademark and branding – are manufacturing devices that contain pre-installed apps that cannot be deleted (often known as ‘bloatware’). These apps can leave users vulnerable to their data being collected, shared and exposed without their knowledge or consent, the plea reads.
It is further averred that the business practice of smartphone companies of introducing pre-installed apps in brand-new smartphones is in violation of the rights of a consumer which have been guaranteed under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019. These rights include the right to be protected against the marketing of goods which are hazardous to life and property of the consumer, the right to be informed, the right to choose, and the right to consumer education and awareness.
User data and privacy is also brought up in the petition. With Chinese smartphone companies totally taking over the smartphone market in the last decade, the data collected through these apps can be used as a weapon in the hands of the Chinese government, the petitioner claims.
The petitioner has prayed that all smartphones must have complete disclosure on their manual or outer packaging about the apps pre-installed in the smartphone, what data of the user they have access to, at which place that data is being stored, by which entity that data is accessible and for what purpose that data is likely to be used.
Additionally, it is prayed that directions be issued to Google to provide an update in android system through which all faulty pre-installed apps can be identified and further also provide ways to get rid of such faulty pre-installed apps & enquire into the privacy and data protection standards of the Google and other Chinese Smartphone companies operating in India.
Furthermore, it is prayed that the Centre further carry out an exhaustive research as to how these companies have been collecting data, how it has been used and where is that collected data stored