In February of this year, the government announced the Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code Rules 2021 to social media companies operating in the country and gave them three months to follow. While the guidelines are detailed and include a long list of compliance requirements that mandate greater accountability from social media companies to abuse and misuse of their platforms, there is one particular clause that has upset WhatsApp.
After this new IT rules“Major social media intermediaries who primarily provide services in the form of messages must enable the identification of the first author of the information, which is only used for the purpose of preventing, detecting, investigating, prosecuting or punishing a crime related to the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state, friendly relations with other states or public order or incitement to a crime in connection with the foregoing or in connection with rape, sexually explicit material or child sexual abuse material which does not result in imprisonment for a period of time are required is punished for less than five years. ”
In addition, the “intermediary is not obliged to communicate the content of a message or other information to the first author.”
WhatsApp claims that adding technology to track the source of a message in WhatsApp would primarily break end-to-end encryption and that the company would need to read and save every personal message exchanged between users because “it There is no way of predicting what message a government would want to investigate in the future. ”
Government responds to WhatsApp
The Department of Electronics and IT responded to the claim by stating that the Indian government “respects the right to privacy and does not intend to violate it when WhatsApp is required to disclose the origin of a particular message”.
The IT ministry also emphasized: “After October 2018, WhatsApp did not raise any specific written objections to the Indian government against the obligation to track down the first perpetrator of serious crimes. They have generally looked for time to increase policy enforcement time but have not given a formal indication that traceability is not possible. ”
“The last-minute contestation (lawsuit) of WhatsApp, despite sufficient time and opportunity during the consultation process and after the rules come into effect, is an unfortunate attempt to prevent them from taking effect.” Ministry said.
India is not the first country to have introduced such rules
The government said in its statement that India alone will not enforce these rules. In July 2019, the governments of the United Kingdom, United States, Australia, New Zealand and Canada issued a communique in which they concluded: “Technology companies should include mechanisms in the design of their encrypted products and services that governments participate in Act in accordance with appropriate legal requirements. Authority can have access to data in a readable and usable format. ”
“Brazilian law enforcement agencies are looking to WhatsApp to provide IP addresses, customer information, geolocation data and physical messages from suspects.”
The government went on to claim, “What India is asking is far less than what some of the other countries have been asking.”
WhatsApp contradicts its stance on privacy by sharing data with Facebook
The IT ministry also highlighted WhatsApp’s conflicting stance on data protection. “On the one hand, WhatsApp would like to prescribe a data protection guideline in which the data of all users are passed on to the parent company Facebook for marketing and advertising purposes. On the other hand, WhatsApp is making every effort to oppose the adoption of the interim directives necessary to maintain law and order and curb the threat of fake messages, “the government said.