Social networking site WhatsApp has sued Central Government in Delhi High Court challenging Centre’s new rules, requiring social media companies to “identify first originator of information” when demanded by authorities. WhatsApp confronting the traceability clause says, it cannot do that because the messages are end-to-end encrypted and hence in order to obey the law, WhatsApp will have to break encryption of both receivers and originators, violating people’s privacy.
WhatsApp filed the petition on 25th May, challenging the new digitals rules, claiming them to be “unconstitutional” that are scheduled to come into force on 26th May,
As per the report by The Indian Express, it states that WhatsApp is invoking the 2017 Justice K S Puttaswamy vs Union of India case to argue that the traceability provision is unconstitutional and against people’s fundamental right to privacy as underlined by the Supreme Court decision.
“Requiring messaging apps to ‘trace’ chats is the equivalent of asking us to keep a fingerprint of every single message sent on WhatsApp, which would break end-to-end encryption and fundamentally undermines people’s right to privacy,” a WhatsApp spokesperson 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,” the spokesperson added.
Facebook owned WhatsApp Messenger states that any particular message traceability demand requirement, of the government will counter the application’s end-to-end encryption policy, as it prevents others from finding out who surfaced the message. It also argued that, given the massive scale of users, as India has the most number of WhatsApp users in the world, traceability will lead to tampering of the data and pointing platforms to new vulnerabilities and making them less secure.
Representing the government, ASG Chetan Sharma, said as India accounts the largest number of users of WhatsApp in the world and it is important to maintain the status quo, adding that the government has written to Facebook CEO, making him aware of the issue and yet the reply is awaited.
The issue arose, after on 25th February, the Centre framed a rules of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021, in the exercise of powers under section 87 (2) of the Information Technology Act, 2000 and in supersession of the earlier Information of the earlier Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules 2011, which will come into effect from May 26.
According to the new norms, social media giants like: Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, have to submit the list of grievances filed by any user against any content of their platform and has to be resolved within 15 days. They were instructed to appoint a resident grievance officer, a chief compliance officer and a nodal contact person, three months ago, before complying.