WhatsApp moves the Delhi High Court against India’s new IT laws concerning traceability of users

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WhatsApp moves the Delhi High Court against India’s new IT laws concerning traceability of users
The Facebook-owned messaging service says the new laws mean an end to privacy.Unsplash
  • WhatsApp has sued the Indian Government over the new regulations that come into effect on Wednesday.
  • The Facebook-owned messaging service says the new laws mean an end to privacy.
  • WhatsApp says "traceability would break end-to-end encryption and fundamentally undermines people’s right to privacy."
Update: WhatsApp has confirmed that it has moved to Delhi High Court for its concerns over "traceability" that has the potential to violate the privacy of Indian users.

Messaging platform WhatsApp has reportedly filed a complaint against the government of India in Delhi, in an attempt to prevent the new Information Technology (IT) regulations from being enforced. The regulations come into force from Wednesday, which is said to compel Facebook-owned Whatsapp to break encryption or privacy protection of its users.

Unnamed sources familiar with the case have told Reuters that the lawsuit filed by WhatsApp demands the Delhi High Court to declare that one of the new rules violates the right to privacy guaranteed by the constitution of India. It requires social media companies to identify the "first originator of the information" when authorities ask for it.

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The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 were announced by the Centre on February 25, 2021, to regulate social media platforms by imposing a code of ethics and mandating a three-tier grievance redressal framework. One of the new laws gives the authorities the power to ask the companies to identify and reveal those accused of wrongdoing on their platform, but WhatsApp says it's practically not possible without compromising user privacy.

Here's why WhatsApp is reluctant to abide by the new law

WhatsApp messages are end-to-end encrypted. It means the details of the person sending the message and the content of the message are untraceable to ensure privacy. Identifying the originator of a particular message will require the company to break encryption for receivers and originators of the message. Breaking encryption is against WhatsApp's policy of offering a secure platform to users, which doesn't compromise the privacy of the individual.

“Requiring messaging apps to “trace” chats is the equivalent of asking us to keep a fingerprint of every single message sent on WhatsApp, which would break end-to-end encryption and fundamentally undermines people’s right to privacy. We have consistently joined civil society and experts around the world in opposing requirements that would violate the privacy of our 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,” WhatsApp told Business Insider.
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The tussle between the Indian government and tech giants is getting fierce

The new laws have escalated the tension between the BJP-led Indian government and the social media giants. Majorly because the time allowed to comply with the new laws is considered to be "too less" by these companies and there are a lot of missing details in the new set of rules.

India is a key market for these companies and there have been several cases where the government of India has been found intimidating these platforms seeming to fulfil their party's personal agenda. Especially with Twitter, a sudden police visit to its offices in Delhi and Gurgaon, a couple of days ago without giving a reason. The visit took place soon after the micro-blogging service had marked posts by BJP's spokesperson Sambit Patra and others as "manipulated media", which means there was forged content in that post. Twitter has also come under fire because it did not take down the ‘manipulated media’ mark on the Modi government's demands.

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The government was also seen suppressing social media companies to remove not only what it "believes" is misinformation on Covid-19, but also posts that criticise the government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi's response to the grave second wave of the Covid-19 infections.
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