WhatsApp is suing the Indian government for protecting user privacy

WhatsApp spokesperson BuzzFeed told WhatsApp that the messaging service WhatsApp is suing the Indian government in the Delhi High Court, challenging the new rules that would force it to break its encryption, potentially revealing the identities of people who sent and received billions of messages on their platform. .

“Civil society and technology experts around the world have consistently argued that the need to ‘trace’ private messages will break end-to-end encryption and lead to actual abuse,” a WhatsApp spokesman told BuzzFeed News. “WhatsApp is committed to protecting the privacy of people’s private messages and we will continue to do what we can under Indian law to do so.”

In a statement issued on Wednesday morning, India’s Ministry of Information Technology said “WhatsApp will be needed to reveal who has sent messages in cases involving India’s sovereignty, integrity and security, rape, sexual harassment, or child sexual abuse”.

It further noted that rumors and misinformation spread on WhatsApp had caused lynchings and riots in the past.

“Any activities conducted in India are subject to the laws of the land,” the ministry said in a statement. “WhatsApp has refused to comply [rules] Its a clear work [defiance]. ”

Of the 1.2 billion people who use Facebook-owned WhatsApp, more than 400 million are from India.

Since 2016, messages and files sent via WhatsApp have been encrypted, meaning no one but the sender and recipient will be able to see their content. WhatsApp has long said that it is important for human privacy. But governments around the world, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and Japan, have been pushing apps like WhatsApp to break that encryption, saying not being able to track who sent it has created law enforcement challenges. Digital rights organizations such as Access Now, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Mozilla have supported WhatsApp’s fight to maintain end-to-end encryption. Reuters first reported the case.

India’s recently enacted IT rules require messaging platforms like WhatsApp to find content from senders. They also give the Indian government the power to question platforms that go against “decency or ethics” and “national security” and “threats to public order” if companies do not comply with the new rules, their employees can take criminal action.

In a blog post on its official website published late Tuesday night, WhatsApp said that “the government’s decision to make traceability mandatory effectively mandates a new form of public surveillance.”

It further said that searchability would violate human rights. The WhatsApp post said, “Innocent people can get involved in investigations, or even go to jail for sharing content that later becomes a problem in the eyes of the government, even if they do no harm by sharing it in the first place. “The threat to bring back to anyone what anyone can write robs people of their privacy, and personal opinions will have a cooling effect on what people say, even violating the universally accepted principles of free speech and human rights.”

India is a big and important market for global technology giants. But in recent times, these agencies have been under pressure from a growing authoritarian government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Last month, India instructed Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube to block critical content in response to the government’s coronavirus epidemic. Earlier this week, Delhi Police visited Twitter’s office when the platform identified some tweets from members of the ruling party as “manipulated media”.

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