New Delhi, NFAPost: Further strengthening its fight against government rules, WhatsApp on Tuesday filed a legal challenge against the Indian government. The facebook-owned messaging app filed a case before the Delhi High Court against new IT rules that would require messaging services to trace the origin of particular messages.
WhatsApp spokesperson said to “trace” chats is the equivalent of asking us to keep a fingerprint of every single message sent on WhatsApp. “It would break end-to-end encryption and fundamentally undermines people’s right to privacy,” said the WhatsApp spokesperson.
The spokesperson said WhatsApp consistently joined civil society and experts around the world in opposing requirements that would violate the privacy of users.
“In the meantime, we will also continue to engage with the Government of India on practical solutions aimed at keeping people safe, including responding to valid legal requests for the information available to us,” said the spokesperson.
As per the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021, social media intermediaries with more than 5 million users and providing messaging services will have to enable identification of the first originator of problematic content that may harm the country’s interests and several other provisions described in the Rules.
The social media intermediary will have to do this in response to a judicial order passed by a court or by a competent authority under section 69 of the IT Act.
“Provided also that where the first originator of any information on the computer resource of an intermediary is located outside the territory of India, the first originator of that information within the territory of India shall be deemed to be the first originator of the information for the purpose of this clause,” say the rule.
Opposes traceability, WhatsApp said it will not break encryption as it undermines the privacy of its users in India. It is interesting to note that India is WhatsApp’s largest market with over 400 million users.
In a recent blog, WhatsApp stated traceability violates user privacy and by requiring private messaging services like WhatsApp to keep track of who-said-what and who-shared-what for billions of messages sent every day.
“Traceability requires messaging services to store information that can be used to ascertain the content of people’s messages, thereby breaking the very guarantees that end-to-end encryption provides. In order to trace even one message, services would have to trace every message,” said WhatsApp in a blog explaining why it opposes traceability.
By encrypting the message WhatsApp scramble data to make it unintelligible, even to service providers. The government is opposing it as it keeps conversations private and is widely misused to spread fake news.
A query shared by NFAPost with WhatsApp seeking clarification on the issue is awaiting a reply.
According to Arvian Consulting, breaking encryption is the first step towards government surveillance on its own citizens. “Then it might put pressure on messaging apps to store all messages transimitted via their platform for finding its origin in the event of any government instruction,” states Arvian Consulting.