Data Privacy: WhatsApp Sues Indian Govt
May 31, 2021
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by Snigdh Baunthiyal

India’s new IT laws at odds with WhatsApp
Messaging app WhatsApp has sued the Indian Government over the country’s new set of IT laws it has refused to comply with. WhatsApp is concerned that the Indian Government is compromising user’s data privacy for its own interest.

What are India’s new IT laws?
In February, the Indian Govt had asked social media companies to do the following:

  • Submit a monthly report on grievances filed against any content on their platform or policy
  • Report details about the status of reported grievances 
  • Identify ‘first originator or information’. According to the Indian Government, tracing the originator will be used under some circumstances. The guidelines state that some messages may be tracked “only for the purposes of prevention, investigation, punishment etc. of inter alia an offence relating to sovereignty, integrity and security of India, public order incitement to an offence relating to rape, sexually explicit material or child sexual abuse material punishable with imprisonment for not less than five years.”
  • Appoint a grievance officer, a chief compliance officer and a nodal contact person. All three are required to be Indian residents. 
    These laws also apply to digital media in India. Social media companies were given close to three months to comply with the new regulations. The Indian Government has maintained that it does not intend on infringing on social media user’s data privacy, but wants it to work as a safety tool. 

    What is WhatsApp saying?
    WhatsApp has called the new laws unconstitutional and has said it will not compromise its users’ privacy. WhatsApp is widely used as one of the main sources of communication in India and the messaging service has said that the government’s new regulations mean that its end-to-end encryption will be compromised.  WhatsApp filed a petition against the Indian Government at Delhi High Court on May 25. This was the last day for complying with the new IT rules.

In an online statement, the company said, 
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.” 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, which is why we join others in opposing traceability.

WhatsApp has also clashed with the Brazilian government over privacy issues and it has led to the app being suspended in the country before being allowed to function again.

What is the Indian Government saying?
The Indian government has maintained that the ‘originator of message’ part of its laws will be used to identify those trying to spread misinformation and participating in other criminal activities including child pornography.

Misinformation being spread through WhatsApp has become a serious problem in the country. There have been some instances of violence due to misinformation. WhatsApp has introduced some safety measures to prevent the spread if misinformation in India, but critics say it is not enough.

WhatsApp’s concerns over the Indian Government’s alleged intention to intrude on data privacy is finding support among those not considered friendly to the Indian government. India has become increasingly intolerant to criticism on social media. Twitter was asked to remove tweets that appeared to lash out at the government recently, as was Facebook.

Local police in New Delhi even visited Twitter’s headquarters in the Indian capital. An endeavour which has met with a huge backlash from netizens and was widely reported by media across the world.

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1 comments

One response to “Data Privacy: WhatsApp Sues Indian Govt”

  1. WhatsApp to Call Your Phone for Verification • Uteckie says:

    […] WhatsApp continues fighting the legal fight in India over its privacy regulations, the company has come up with a host of other features […]

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