WhatsApp: Centre Responds To WhatsApp's Allegations Over New IT Rules

The Ministry of Electronics & IT responded to WhatsApp's allegations over the new IT rules and categorically stated that the Union Govt respected privacy & had 'no intentions to violate it when WhatsApp was required to disclose the origin of a message'.

WhatsApp: Centre Responds To WhatsApp's Allegations Over New IT Rules
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The Ministry of Electronics & IT responded to WhatsApp's allegations over the new IT rules and categorically stated that the Union Govt respected privacy & had 'no intentions to violate it when WhatsApp was required to disclose the origin of a message'. Reiterating the govt's commitment to ensure the Right to Privacy, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad assured WhatsApp that its normal functioning will not be affected by the implementation of the new IT rules. A press release from the Ministry of Electronics & IT quoted Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad saying, “the Government of India is committed to ensure the Right of Privacy to all its citizens but at the same time it is also the responsibility of the government to maintain law and order and ensure national security.” Accordingly, it has assured that if details are sought to determine the originator of a particular message, it would only be so as a last resort, and will appropriate legal authorisation seeing as it would entail a 'reasonable restriction' in the fundamental right to privacy.

'Right to Privacy not absolute'

Noting that the Right to Privacy was subject to reasonable restrictions, the press release pointed out that the requirements in the Intermediary Guidelines pertaining to the first originator of information were an example of such reasonable restriction. Further, the order to trace the originator for the 'prevention, investigation, punishment etc. of inter alia an offence relating to sovereignty, integrity and security of India, public order incitement to an offence relating to rape, sexually explicit material or child sexual abuse material punishable with imprisonment for not less than five years', GoI's press release said. Citing the circulation & recirculation of messages on WhatsApp in cases of mob lynching and riots, the press release said that role of who originated was very important.  

Centre exposes WhatsApp's hypocrisy

Further, the Centre exposed WhatsApp's hypocrisy, noting that it was objecting to the new IT rules while it was simultaneously mandating a privacy policy wherein it will share the data of all its user with its parent company, Facebook. Brushing aside WhatsApp's end-to-end encryption explanation, the Ministry of Electronics & IT press release stated that it was pertinent to note that the rule to trace the first originator of the information is mandatory for each and every significant social media intermediary, irrespective of their method of operation. Further, GoI informed that the rules enacted by India were not rules implemented in isolation but have global precedence, citing rules issued by the govts in the United Kingdom, United States, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. 

“The entire debate on whether encryption would be maintained or not is misplaced. Whether Right to Privacy is ensured through using encryption technology or some other technology is entirely the purview of the social media intermediary.  The Government of India is committed to ensuring the Right of Privacy to all its citizens as well as have the means and the information necessary to ensure public order and maintain national security. It is WhatsApp’s responsibility to find a technical solution, whether through encryption or otherwise, that both happen,” Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad was quoted saying in the press release.

Centre responds to WhatsApp's allegations over new IT rules 

WhatsApp moves Delhi HC against Centre's new IT rules

WhatsApp moved the Delhi High Court challenging the Centre's recent rules for social media intermediaries that call for the traceability of messages. The Facebook-owned messaging platform reportedly filed the petition on May 25, which was the last day to comply with the guidelines. Invoking the Supreme Court's verdict in the 2017 Justice K S Puttaswamy (Retd.) vs Union Of India case, it has argued that the traceability provision is against the fundamental right to privacy. 

In its petition, WhatsApp has sought direction from the court to declare the aforesaid traceability provision unconstitutional and prevent criminal liability to its employees for non-compliance. Incidentally, the messaging platform's move comes a day after Facebook expressed intent to comply with the provisions of the new IT rules. Mentioning that it will continue to discuss some issues with the government, a Facebook spokesperson stressed that the people can continue to freely and safely express themselves on the platform. Meanwhile, the government's acrimony with Twitter over this matter continues as there is no confirmation yet on whether the microblogging platform has complied with the rules either, even as it grapples with the Delhi Police over the 'toolkit' manipulated media row.

WhatsApp has alleged that the new IT rules violated the fundamental right to freedom of speech & expression and that it even 'chills' lawful speech. Refusing to comply with the new IT guidelines, WhatsApp argued that the citizens wouldn't speak freely fearing traceability and claimed that it was antithetical to end-to-end encryption. It further stated that imposing a requirement to enable the identification of the first originator of information would undermine security protocol. In its petition challenging the new IT rules at Delhi HC, WhatsApp has sought the new guidelines to be declared unconstitutional & illegal and wanted zero liability imposed on it for not complying with the new rules. 

(Disclaimer: This story has not been edited by Kanglatimes Staff only the title and images might have been changed and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)