Why WhatsApp Might End It’s ‘End-to-End Encryption’ Privacy in India
Recent notification of the ‘New IT Policies’ is definitely adding new spectrum to our online data & privacy in India
Why I am saying this? am I a retard?
Well, you can say that….besides, I don’t care. Recently Indian Government had a string of affairs and legal collisions with social media platforms which contributed towards generating a lot of heat on the nation-wide farmer’s rally. Few platforms, especially Twitter was pushed on the edge to take some legal actions. It’s no doubt that digital news is spreading way faster than ever before, and as of now Indian Government has become particular about social media platforms and digital media in general.
In the past, Facebook is renowned for having a good relationship with the Indian Government, and while moving forward to 2021 & beyond, it is up-to Facebook now whether they’re happy to keep that bond intact. Because from the Indian Government’s standpoint, they’ve made it clear that they want to minimize the chaos that is being created through social media platforms.
So, where does Whatsapp stand here, and how you’re going to bring some connection to the ‘end-to-end encryption’?
Let me share some news here, on 25 Feb 2021 Indian government officially released a new set of IT policies focused on ‘Intermediaries.’
What’s the policy, and what it has to do with Whatsapp?
This IT policy of 2021 is termed as ‘Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code,’ which was notified by Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY). According to the notification, from now on cyber laws in the country will be under two or three ministries like the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB), Cyberlaw agencies, and MEITY itself.
Why is it important in the context?
Let me tell you that the Government runs the two ministries involved in this policy compared to cyber law agencies, which works partially for the government. Besides this insider stuff, I want to take you through the official document. The document is basically divided into three parts:-
Part 1: Definition and terms for intermediaries
Part 2: New rules, guidelines, and steps for social media platforms
Part 3: New rules, guidelines, and steps for OTT and digital media platforms
What are intermediaries here?
In simple words, Intermediaries in the digital world are the platforms where content is published publicly by users, while platforms being not completely responsible for each content piece.
All social media platforms come under the category of Intermediaries, and due to the new IT policies, the immunity of intermediaries has been reduced. Which means now intermediaries are completely responsible for the content published on their platforms, and Indian Government has introduced a new set of guidelines to align with the new meaning of Intermediary.
Yup….WHATSAPP is an Intermediary & what does that even mean for its future?
To look into Whatsapp’s current position and assess its future stay point. We need to take a look at the PART 2 of the IT policies 2021 document, which completely focuses on social media platforms.
In the document, it is mentioned that all social media companies need to hire particular three people in the next three months:-
- Chief compliance officer — Who will check whether all new IT rules are intact (or) not
- Nodal contact person — He/she will be 24x7 in contact with law enforcement agencies
- Resident Grievance Officer — He/she is taking complaints form users and should assess every case under 24 hrs and resolve it within 15 days
If any company denies these steps, then there will be legal consequences. Apart from the appointment of three new people, the Government had passed along a set of new guidelines to follow.
Among all those guidelines, the main important information which makes WhatsApp come into this discussion will be are:-
- Intermediaries have to retain the data for at least six months
- Implementation of social media intermediary services whose duty will be to fetch ‘first originator of the information
Data retention for six months?
Now, if social media platforms are asked to retain data for six months, then it should be obvious that data won’t be sitting pale on their servers and why would companies like Facebook would deny it, as they can use that data for better ad targeting.
Note: In the legal notification, there is no clear mentions of what sort of data needs to be retained for six months.
The first originator of the information?
This is where the whole discussion regarding the WhatsApp should start.
Fetching ‘first originator of the information’ indicates that Intermediaries like WhatsApp need to provide the first source of any data. This step is taken to trace down the actual path of fake news, controversial statements, abusive docs, and fake forwards on WhatsApp.
An app like WhatsApp needs to have the exact data of its users to do so, and if WhatsApp agrees to do so….. Then it’s ‘end-to-end’ encryption privacy should be questioned here?
According to the notification, the Indian Government will have the right to ask for the exact data to trace first originators in case of any immediate public disorder.
Why will WhatsApp end its ‘end-to-end’ encryption?
MEITY has mentioned clearly in the notification that if any intermediaries don’t comply with new IT policies, then they may have to face legal consequences.
In terms of apps and digital media, the Indian Government doesn’t like to step back, and it should be clearly understood if you remember how India banned 59 apps along with Tiktok and PubG due to the data security issues.
Thus, there is no doubt that intermediaries that don’t follow new IT policies will be under the Government’s radar.
It’s an opportunity for WhatApp to eliminate competitors
In India, WhatsApp has a market share of 64% for messenger apps. Undoubtedly, India is not the market that any app (or) business may want to miss out on. Because there is a sea of full of data for tech businesses, and on the other hand, Facebook does know how to do business with data.
With the recent privacy updates on WhatsApp, people’s attention was shifted to apps like Telegram and Signal, which still aren’t competition for WhatsApp. But they can be in the future if people don’t trust WhatsApp with their privacy.
On the other side, Telegram and Signal are run by non-profit organizations, and their main goal is to keep end-users data safe. Thus with the given new IT policies in hand, it hard to believe weather Telegram and Signal would agree to those.
Thus, this makes a huge gateway for Facebook to agree with new IT policies, and by doing so, they can grab that additional market share in India in the absence of apps like Telegram and Signal.
Facebook won’t be let going of their mutual relationship with current Indian government
As of now, it’s no big secret in India that Facebook and current Indian government has a good relationship between them. In the past, Facebook’s soft corner for Indian government was exposed when hate speech content was favored by the platform.
It is said that, Facebook has heavily invested on India and we sure know what a country India could offer Mark and at this point, not agreeing with Indian’s new IT polices means a conflict in the relationship, which neither of the two parties wants.
At this moment, India is very aggressive with the ongoing farmer’s rally and with multiple allegations of fake influence in the rally through social media posts, the governments is not ready for another data leak (or) fake news being nationalized, so it’s the time for the Facebook to agree with the terms as an Intermediary and support India’s cause.
As I said, the new IT policies for Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code from MEITY have given three months of execution period for all platforms to agree and implements crucial steps to compile with their new guidelines.
The picture would become clear once the Indian Government looks into the Intermediaries changes close by and confirms that all intermediaries comply with new rules.
At this moment, the main purpose of these IT policies is to track sexual abuse, fake news, controversial statements online and stop such content from spreading and keep the nation’s integrity intact while having a good established foreign image.