The Facebook-owned instant messaging application WhatsApp sued the Indian federal government on Wednesday to challenge newly passed regulations by New Delhi that would allow Indian security officials the right to trace people’s private messages.
“[I]n its legal complaint, WhatsApp has requested the Delhi High Court to declare that one of the new rules is a violation of privacy rights as per the constitution of India. Whatsapp argued` the rule requires social media companies to identify the ‘first originator of information’ when asked by government authorities,” India’s Daily News & Analysis (DNA) news site reported on May 26.
“Civil society and technical experts around the world have consistently argued that a requirement to ‘trace’ private messages would break end-to-end encryption and lead to real abuse. WhatsApp is committed to protecting the privacy of people’s personal messages and we will continue to do all we can within the laws of India to do so,” WhatsApp said in a statement. WhatsApp is owned by the U.S.-based social media company Facebook and has 530 million users in India, the messaging app’s largest market.
New Delhi’s new traceability requirement for Whatsapp went into effect on May 26. It is part of sweeping Information Technology (IT) reforms announced by the Indian federal government in February.
Internet-based companies including Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Netflix “will be required to acknowledge takedown requests of unlawful misinformation and violent content within 24 hours and deliver a complete redressal within 15 days,” Ravi Shankar Prasad, who serves as both Indian Minister of Law and Justice and Indian Minister of Communication and IT, said at a press conference on February 25, as quoted by Tech Crunch.
“In sensitive cases such as those surrounding explicit sexual content, firms will be required to take down the content within 24 hours,” Prasad said.
“These firms will also be required to appoint compliance, nodal contact, and resident grievance officers whose names and contact details will be shared with New Delhi to effectively address on-ground concerns. Firms will also have to set up a local office in India,” the IT minister added.
New Delhi announced the new IT regulations on February 25, saying it would provide the affected tech firms three months to prepare for the new rules before they went into effect on May 26.
“[S]ocial media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, and Instagram may face a ban in India if they do not comply with the new Intermediary Guidelines set by the Indian government. The deadline to accept the guidelines set by the government ended on May 25,” India’s DNA news site noted on May 26.