Similar to Australia’s “anti-encryption” agenda, India has developed a set of regulations that pose a serious threat to users’ privacy online. As such, Facebook-owned WhatsApp instituted proceedings against the Indian government over its new traceability powers and ‘oppressive internet rules’.
WhatsApp employs end-to-end encryption, meaning that only the sender and receiver have access to the sent messages. However, the Indian government is proposing to change the status of these messages to enable officials and authorities to trace these messages and be viewed by outside parties. This would involve the creation of internal databases and digital fingerprints to monitor messages sent by users. This traceability power is argued by WhatsApp to “severely undermine the privacy of billions of people who communicate digitally” and ultimately impact the platforms high security. Consequently, WhatsApp is seeking to block the enforceability of these new rules as a matter of public safety.
India’s Minister of Electronics and Information technology countered this lawsuit by arguing that it is the government’s responsibility to protect users online. As we have seen over the past year, governments from Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union have begun to draft or enact legislation that contains the dominance of digital platforms and social media conglomerates. This has led to a struggle between balancing competitive practices, national security, and personal freedoms online. Critics of these new laws regard them as a means of silencing government detractors and such laws would only open up avenues for abuse.
What is clear is that several digital platforms have begun to counter these oppressive regulations, and we may see drastic changes in international and local digital policy going into the future.