Government may ask WhatsApp, Snapchat to store your private information

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Government may ask WhatsApp, Snapchat to store your private information Government is planning to come up with new rules that will require companies like Google, WhatsApp, Snapchat, and Amazon to store client data. This is a development that will face a considerable measure of opposition.

A committee has been set up by the government for drafting rules for Section 67C of the Information Technology Act.

What the government is looking to do now is draft rules for Section 67C of the Information Technology Act. The rules, whose drafting has been holding up since 2008, will explain what sort of information has to be stored, in what format, and for what time period, as per three individuals from the recently framed council.

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Sharing of data between outside firms and the Indian government has been a combative issue, and specialists said the order might be difficult to execute for firms, for example, WhatsApp that promise end-to-end encryption. Or for Snapchat - a chat app where messages disappear within seconds and are not even stored on the company's servers.

Firms may also oppose the diktat, especially since most of them are not governed by Indian laws and also due to the high cost of data retention.

The committee is lead by additional secretary in the ministry of electronics and IT (MEITY), Ajay Kumar, and has one representative each from the ministry of home affairs, department of telecom, department of personnel and training, Nasscom, Internet Service Provider Association of India (ISPAI), along with an advocate specialising in cyber law and a few officers from MEITY.

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"This is a fairly complex issue, compounded by the general lack of understanding of mobile apps and over the top service providers," a person on the committee who did not wish to be identified told ET.

He also said that most technology firms are US based and they have always been at loggerheads about sharing of information with the government.

"Even if it is for national security reasons, how much are these companies answerable to the Indian security establishment? And we do know how Apple refused to unlock the phone even for FBI," he added.

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However, Supreme Court and cyber law expert Pavan Duggal assured that the section is drafted in very broad terms and the move may be driven by the realisation that these companies are huge data repositories - some of which might be relevant to law enforcement investigations.

"It will have to be a huge balancing act and will be interesting to see what this committee decides," Duggal told ET.

Section 67C refers to the obligation of the service providers to hold data, the nature of the data to be retained and the time period is not specified. Companies which do not comply with the law can be levied fine and its officers imprisoned.
(image: Indiatimes)
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