The WhatsApp messaging service is suing the Indian government in the Delhi High Court, challenging new rules that would force it to break its encryption, potentially revealing the identities of the people who sent and received billions of messages on its platform. a WhatsApp spokesperson told BuzzFeed News.
“Civil society and technical experts around the world have consistently argued that the obligation to” track “private messages would break end-to-end encryption and lead to real abuse,” a spokesperson told BuzzFeed News. of WhatsApp. “WhatsApp is committed to protecting the privacy of people’s personal messages and we will continue to do everything possible under the laws of India to do so.”
In a statement released Wednesday morning, India’s IT Ministry said it will require WhatsApp to disclose only who sent a message in cases related to India’s “sovereignty, integrity and security, inciting public order to a related crime.” to rape, sexually explicit material “. or child pornography material “.
He also pointed out that rumors and misinformation spreading on WhatsApp had caused lynchings and riots in the past.
“Any ongoing operation in India is subject to the country’s law,” the ministry’s statement added. “WhatsApp’s refusal to comply with the comply [rules] is a clear act of [defiance]. “
More than 400 million of the 1.2 billion people who use Facebook-owned WhatsApp are from India.
Since 2016, messages and files sent via WhatsApp have been encrypted, which means that no one but the sender and recipient can see their content. WhatsApp has long stated that this is important for people’s privacy. But governments around the world, including the US, UK, Australia, Canada, and Japan, have lobbied apps like WhatsApp to crack that encryption, saying not being able to track who sent what poses a challenge to police. Digital rights organizations like Access Now, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Mozilla have supported WhatsApp’s struggle to maintain end-to-end encryption. Reuters first reported on the lawsuit.
The recently enacted IT rules from India require messaging platforms such as WhatsApp to trace the senders of content. They also grant the Indian government the power to ask platforms to remove content that goes against “decency or morality” and threatens “national security” and “public order”. If companies fail to comply with the new rules, their employees can face prosecution.
In a blog post on its official website published late Tuesday, WhatsApp said that “a government that chooses to enforce traceability is effectively imposing a new form of mass surveillance.”
He also claimed that traceability would violate human rights. “Innocent people could get involved in the investigation or even go to jail for sharing content that later becomes a problem in the eyes of a government, even if it meant no harm by sharing it in the first place,” the WhatsApp post said. “The threat that anything someone writes can be traced back to them takes away people’s privacy and would have a chilling effect on what people say even in private settings, violating universally recognized principles of free expression and human rights.”
India is a large and important market for global tech giants. But in recent times, these companies have faced pressure from an increasingly authoritarian government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Last month, India ordered Twitter, Facebook Instagram and YouTube to block content critical of the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Earlier this week, Delhi police visited Twitter offices after the platform labeled tweets from ruling party members as “manipulated media.”
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