Privacy on social networks and messaging applications is a contentious issue. It is not just private individuals who are at risk, but even big organizations can be impacted by data breaches on such platforms. Recently, price-sensitive financial data of a dozen listed Indian companies happened to be circulating on WhatsApp groups much before they were made available in public domain. Now, market regulator SEBI has ordered a probe into the data leak, according to reports.
“We are taking that very seriously. How come such messages about reputed listed companies are leaked quite close to the financial results is something we are not going to sit quietly on,” SEBI Chairman Ajay Tyagi announced. It is believed that the leaked information could have far-reaching implications on the stock prices of these companies as well as the financial market at large. SEBI is also said to be looking into the call logs of those involved in the leak.
As per SEBI’s mandate, any price-sensitive information needs to be disclosed through stock exchange platforms only. If the data surfaces in any other manner, it amounts to a violation of these guidelines. Last year, SEBI had even proposed a ban on the sharing of stock-related tips or information through bulk mails, messages, blogs or social media networks like Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp, unless one is a registered investment adviser. Unregulated and unverified information that circulates on these platforms often mislead the general public, and push them towards investments that aren’t good, SEBI reckoned.
WhatsApp groups, particularly, have been responsible for several misinformation campaigns in India. Given the Facebook-owned messaging service’s huge consumer base here — India is WhatsApp’s largest market in the world with over 200 million monthly active users — it is almost impossible to centralize or control information flows. Hence, it is imperative that the platform be used judiciously. The probe is necessary and SEBI is most likely to penalize those individuals who leaked much-valued financial data.