WhatsApp sues Indian Government over new digital rules: Explained

Popular messenger app WhatsApp India has filed a lawsuit on Tuesday in the Delhi High Court against the new rules announced by the Indian government back in February. As new digital rules will come into action today, WhatsApp says that these rules would force them to break users’ privacy protection offered by the app

The new digital rules announced by the government have a requirement to adopt some features like traceability for finding the origin of the message on WhatsApp. To this, the company said that this inclusion of the rule would violate the company’s core agenda of offering end-to-end encryption.

According to the company, the traceability feature can be used to trick users to frame them for things they said or not. 

While WhatsApp is showing its resistance over the new privacy policies, Facebook said that it is working on complying with new rules. “We aim to comply with the provisions of the IT rules and continue to discuss a few of the issues which need more engagement with the government. Pursuant to the IT Rules, we are working to implement operational processes and improve efficiencies,” said the spokesperson of Facebook.

IT Act 2021

On February 25, the Indian government issued new guidelines under the IT Act. As per the guidelines, digital media companies were given a time period of three months to implement new content moderation techniques, and appoint new officers who will monitor the rules, and features such as traceability. 

WhatsApp has said that it is committed to protecting its users’ privacy and ready to fight against features like traceability that are part of the guidelines. “Requiring messaging apps to ‘trace’ chats is 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,” said WhatsApp’s spokesperson.

WhatsApp’s Privacy fight

Some governments were looking for ways to force technology companies to find out the source of a message on private messenger services, said WhatsApp in a blog. The new feature of traceability proposed by the Indian government has become a serious concern as it would end the privacy protection offered by the app to millions of users across the country. 

A similar case filed by the company in the Supreme Court of Brazil to protect its end-to-end encryption is pending. “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,” added the blog.

Indian government

On Tuesday, the Indian government notified the rules and said no to any further discussion on these rules. While on Monday, officials warned that if digital companies don’t comply with the rules they can face stern actions. However, no company has informed the government about the compliance or appointment of officers for monitoring purposes. 

Only Koo, a recently launched Indian social media app announced that it informed the government that it had complied with the new proposed requirements and appointed an inhouse grievance officer, chief compliance officer and a nodal contact officer. 

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