WhatsApp had faced backlashes early in the year. After facing a backlash over user privacy WhatsApp has sued the Government of India, challenged new rules for internet companies. WhatsApp calls India’s new laws “Unconstitutional”, Accuses them of ordering “mass surveillance”.
India says “right to privacy fundamental not absolute. Indian laws are in line with global precedents. WhatsApp will have to follow the laws of the land”
The “Digital ethics code” is a new set of rules and regulations that the government of India introduced 3 months back and they came into effect last week. Social media companies were expected to take these measures, the deadline passed but the companies didn’t respond, they were supposed to appoint compliance officers in India instead they went to the court.
WhatsApp put some serious charges against the Government of India. It says India’s new launch challenges right to privacy report says they have involved the Hon’ble Justice K.S. Puttaswamy vs. union of India case (2017) they have cited their case in this plea(landmark case that established privacy as a fundamental right for all Indian citizens).
It is about traceability provision – tracing the source of the message. Under this new rule, WhatsApp could be asked to trace the source of the message by the government.
Is tracing the source of a message breach of privacy or is it a way to identify fake and misleading information?
WhatsApp playing advocate of privacy is a bit rich. WhatsApp is themselves accused of undermining privacy. It’s the same company that says accept the policy or leaves the platform. And now it’s preaching the government on privacy. It wanted to share its user data with Facebook (its parent company). But Government of India asked them to withdraw the new policy
The matter is now in court and WhatsApp is now a subject of an antitrust investigation.
WhatsApp says that to trace the source of a message they will have to break end-to-end encryption (it’s like a lock where only the sender and the receiver can read the msg, not the company). It also says GoI is asking it to conduct “mass surveillance”. But the government responded by saying “department respects the right to privacy, it is fundamental but it’s not absolute”. The government says the new rules are in the public interest and they follow the laws of the land.
India isn’t the only country that has demanded it. In October 2020 the UK, USA, Australia, Japan, and India signed a statement it called all the big-Techs to provide the government with the back doors that would allow them to read messages for national security reasons. They want to stop any potential security threats like terrorist activities.
In recent years terrorists have used secured messaging apps to plan attacks and to recruit more members. But tech companies have turned down demands from the government. So far this was a tug of war but now it had reached a court of law.
This case is the first of its kind it will set a precedent for every messaging app like WhatsApp, signal telegram, etc… The verdict, in this case, will affect everyone who uses a smartphone today.