Deep Analysis of Why WhatsApp sued Indian Government

Alan Joseph Alan Joseph
May 27, 2021 5 min read
Deep Analysis of Why WhatsApp sued Indian Government

On 25 February, the Government of India had passed new norms for the social media firms to operate in India by giving them a deadline. But it was observed that except for the Indian based social media app Koo, none of the other tech giants had accepted the norms. Whereas WhatsApp has sued the Government of India by moving towards the Delhi High Court. Let’s look at why the social media giant had sued the government.

WhatsApp – Latest News
Why WhatsApp is not complying with the norms of Indian Government
Why is WhatsApp concerned about Traceability and Vulnerability of the message?
WhatsApp’s Plea against Government of India
FAQ

WhatsApp – Latest News

WhatsApp had not accepted to the new IT norms laid down by the government rather the company moved towards the Delhi High Court against the traceability of the IT clause, the company has pointed out that it is unconstitutional.

According to the messaging platform, accepting the traceability cause will force the private companies to identify and store the data of who said what, who shared what and who received what. They will have to store billions of data of millions of users just for the requirement of the law enforcement agencies.

The petition was filed on 25 May 2021 which was the final date to accept the IT norms. Being faced with the deadline to accept the new norms especially the first originator of the message, the Facebook owned messaging platform had filed a case in the Delhi High Court.


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Why WhatsApp is not complying with the norms of Indian Government

WhatsApp has mentioned that requiring to keep the data of all the messages is equal to keeping fingerprints of every single message sent on WhatsApp. A WhatsApp spokesperson had conveyed that accepting this norm will put an end to the end-to-end encryption on WhatsApp and the privacy of the people will be lost.

The company has said that it is of no argument that traceability is completely opposite to the concept of end-to-end encryption which tries to prevent others from finding out who sent the message. WhatsApp has conveyed that in order to trace one single message they will have to trace all the messages.

That is because the private companies will have no idea which message the government would want to check in the future. The company added that doing so is a situation whereby the Government that chooses to mandate traceability is effectively mandating a new form of mass surveillance.

In basic terms, there won’t be any privacy anymore and if the social media companies accept to the norm, then all the messages or videos or texts that are shared through your social media account would be under surveillance and would be collected and stored. Even deleting a message would just get deleted on the application but it would remain in their database.

Ravi Shankar Prasad on WhatsApp Encryption
Ravi Shankar Prasad on WhatsApp Encryption

Why is WhatsApp concerned about Traceability and Vulnerability of the message?

The messaging platform has said that it is impossible to understand the original producer of a message as there are circumstances where people copy paste the messages on certain websites or social media platforms.

They have also claimed that transparency cannot be achieved without tampering with the data due to the massive scale and it is expected to open up new vulnerabilities and makes the platform less secure to use.

WhatsApp has argued that traceability is just the opposite of how a law enforcement investigates a crime. Normally a law enforcement would ask for the account details of a known user and the app would provide it but here the Government wants to provide a piece of information and get to know which account has sent the message first.


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WhatsApp’s Plea against Government of India

In WhatsApp’s plea, it is clear that they were invoking the 2017 justice KS Puttaswamy vs Union of India Case in order to argue that the provision for traceability is unconstitutional and against people’s fundamental right to privacy.

The company has said that they have always tried to declare traceability as unconstitutional and avoided it from putting it into practice. They have also tried to prevent criminal liability for its employees for non-compliance.

The spokesperson of WhatsApp added that the company have been joining with various civil societies and experts around the world in opposing the requirements related to privacy for its users and will also try to engage with the Government of India in finding a practical solution while keeping the privacy of its users safe by responding to the valid legal requests for the information available to them.

FAQ

What is the new rules for social media in India?

As per the guidelines, the social media intermediaries providing services primarily in the nature of messaging have to enable identification of the first originator of the information.

Can WhatsApp read encrypted messages?

WhatsApp can't read or listen to your personal conversation as they are end-to-end encrypted.

Can police read deleted WhatsApp messages?

No one can trace encrypted deleted WhatsApp messages.

Conclusion

Facebook has conveyed that they remain committed to the ability of the people to freely express themselves on their platform and also added that they were working to improve efficiencies and to implement operational processes. The company is in talks with the government in regards to a few more issues.

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