WhatsApp has moved the Delhi High Court challenging the new IT rules laid down by the Indian government. The IT rules would require WhatsApp to break its encryption, thus potentially revealing the identities of people exchanging messages on the platform. WhatsApp filed the petition on the last day of the deadline for compliance, May 25.
As per reports, WhatsApp is invoking the 2017 Justice K S Puttaswamy vs Union Of India case to argue that the traceability provision is unconstitutional and against the people’s fundamental right to privacy as underlined by the Supreme Court decision. The petition wants traceability to be declared unconstitutional and stopped from coming into force, along with the prevention of criminal liability to WhatsApp employees for not complying with the rules.
A WhatsApp spokesperson has been reported to have said, “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.”
A WhatsApp web page went live today discussing traceability and why WhatsApp opposes it. “Some governments are seeking to force technology companies to find out who sent a particular message on private messaging services. This concept is called traceability”, it said. “Technology and privacy experts have determined that traceability breaks end-to-end encryption and would severely undermine the privacy of billions of people who communicate digitally. Reasonable and proportionate regulations for an increasingly digital world are important, but eroding privacy for everyone, violating human rights, and putting innocent people at risk is not the solution. WhatsApp is committed to doing all we can to protect the privacy of people’s personal messages…”, it added.
WhatsApp further goes on to state in the blogpost that, “Traceability is intended to do the opposite 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...In order to trace even one message, services would have to trace every message. That’s because there is no way to predict which message a government would want to investigate in the future. In doing so, a government that chooses to mandate traceability is effectively mandating a new form of mass surveillance.”
As per reports, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter haven’t yet appointed a resident grievance officer, a chief compliance officer and a nodal contact person as mandated by the government norms announced on February 25 with a deadline of three months for compliance. As per these new rules, the social media platforms are required to submit a monthly report to the IT Ministry on the number of grievances filed against the content on the platforms. The government also wanted them to facilitate “identification of the first originator of the information”.