WhatsApp claims the rules set by the Government of India as a move to regulate social media platforms and messaging apps requires tracing the origin of chats, amounted to keeping a “fingerprint of every single message sent on the service.”
The government issued broad regulations for social media and video streaming platforms on February 25, requiring them to remove any content flagged by authorities within 36 hours.
The policies framed ask for these messaging platforms to make provisions for the “identification of the first originator of the information.”
Whatsapp petitioned the Delhi High Court to declare the new rule unconstitutional, stating it to be reason that “would break end-to-end encryption and fundamentally undermine people’s right to privacy.”
“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,” WhatsApp said.
Traceability of texts, on the other hand would force private companies to collect and store billions of messages sent each day for the sole purpose of turning them over to law enforcement agencies.
Practically one who isn’t a part of the conversation would never understand the purpose and context of the messages at its entirety also because viewing someone else’s chats is subject to viewer discretion and different perceptions.
The messaging service says tracing the origin of a message would be a difficult attempt and can lead to people being “framed for things they did not say or do.”
The government newly formed set of policies is in response to an explosion of fake news, which has resulted in mob violence and over 40 deaths in 2017 and 2018.
WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, is by far the most popular of the platforms. India accounts for 400 million of its global population. Following a wave of rumor-fueled mob violence in 2018, the government asked WhatsApp to assist in preventing the spread of “irresponsible and explosive messages” on its platform. The platform took several steps, including limiting the number of forwards allowed at any given time to five and labelling those messages as “forwarded.”
But the government calls this insufficient. In a related case, India’s attorney general told the Supreme Court that social media companies had “no business to enter the country and carry on if they can’t decrypt information for investigative agencies, in cases of sedition and pornography, among other crimes.”
“What [they want] is not possible today, given the end-to-end encryption we use,” Carl Woog, WhatsApp’s global head of communications, told journalists in Delhi in February.
“It would require us to re-architect WhatsApp,leading us to a different product, one that would not be fundamentally private. Imagine if every message you sent was kept with a record of your phone number. That would not be a place for private communications”, he added.