The Supreme Court of India has issued an essential warning to WhatsApp users, particularly those with prepaid mobile numbers who plan to change their phone numbers. In a recent ruling, the top court stated that mobile service providers like Airtel, Reliance Jio and Vodafone Idea can reallocate deactivated numbers to new subscribers after a specified period. Here’s everything you need to know.
This decision affects WhatsApp users because the messaging platform is linked to the user’s mobile number. Therefore, the court emphasized the importance of WhatsApp users deleting their data before changing their phone numbers to avoid potential privacy violations, according to Gadgets Now. The court dismissed a petition filed by advocate Rajeshwari, who sought directions from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) to direct mobile service providers to stop issuing deactivated mobile numbers to new customers.
The bench, headed by Justices Sanjiv Khanna and SVN Bhatti, explained: “The subscriber can prevent misuse of WhatsApp data by deleting the WhatsApp account attached with the previous phone number and erasing the WhatsApp data stored on the local device memory/cloud/drive. It is for the earlier subscriber to take adequate steps to ensure that privacy is maintained.”
The court’s decision is in line with the guidelines laid down by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) in April 2017, which stated that a mobile number deactivated due to non-use or disconnection at the request of the subscriber should not be reassigned to a new subscriber for at least 90 days.
The court noted that Department of Transportation policy supports not reassigning numbers immediately, giving the previous subscriber time to protect their privacy.
Additionally, the court highlighted the existence of the Mobile Number Revocation List (MNRL), a digitally signed record of permanently disconnected mobile numbers. The MNRL is a tool to maintain transparency and efficiency, helping various service providers, banks, non-banking financial institutions and other regulated entities prevent sending one-time passwords (OTPs) to unwanted recipients.
In summary, the Supreme Court ruling clarifies that mobile service providers have the legal authority to reassign deactivated numbers to new subscribers after 90 days. WhatsApp users are advised to proactively delete the data associated with their old number to safeguard their privacy when switching to a new contact number. This decision ensures a balance between subscriber privacy and efficient number allocation practices.
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