Explain how minors are getting into Facebook, Google, court asks govt.

The Hindu

The Delhi High Court on Thursday asked the Union government to explain how it was allowing children below 18 years to open accounts in social networking sites such as Facebook and Google.

A Division Bench of Justices B.D. Ahmed and Vibhu Bakhru asked the Centre to respond within 10 days when counsel for the former BJP ideologue, K.N. Govindacharya, the petitioner in the matter, accused the two sites of not verifying details of its subscribers. It posted the matter on May 13 for further hearing. The court has been seized of the petition since June 2012.

Mr. Govindacharya alleged that Facebook and Google were using users’ data for commercial purposes and evading taxes on their operations in India, and the government was not taking any action against them.

The Bench also impleaded Facebook Inc. and Google Inc. as parties to the petition and issued notices to them. Their Indian subsidiaries had responded to the petition.

Earlier, lawyer Virag Gupta, arguing for the petitioner, said the agreements entered into by minors here with the sites were against the Indian Majority Act, the Indian Contract Act and the Information Technology Act. In June 2012, Facebook, in a statement filed before the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, admitted that more than eight crore of its registered users were fake. This might have further increased, he noted.

Mr. Govindacharya, in his petition, accused Facebook of transferring its data to the U.S. for commercial use without paying any taxes to the Indian government as per the Double Tax Avoidance Agreement. He urged the court to direct the Centre to ensure compliance of the verification norms for users of the sites as was being done by mobile companies for their subscribers to pre-empt any security threat to the country.

As per Facebook’s records, its fake accounts were being operated by anonymous users as details were not verified by the company before accounts were opened, Mr. Govindacharya said. The government had framed detailed guidelines for ‘Know Your Customer’ norms for all sectors and more specifically for verification of mobile subscribers by telecom companies. However, these norms were not being followed by the sites, thus posing a grave security risk to the nation, he added.

He also raised the issue of invasion of privacy of users of the sites as their data was being transferred to the U.S. for commercial use. He urged the court to stay the operation of services of fake users of the sites and direct the government to make the sites stop opening of unverified accounts.


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