- In the lawsuit WhatsApp, challenges the Centre’s recent rules for social media intermediaries, which require message traceability.
- WhatsApp states that messages on its network are encrypted end-to-end, so it will have to breach encryption for those sending and receiving messages to comply with the law.
WhatsApp has filed a lawsuit in the Delhi High Court, claiming that the government’s latest digital rules, which go into effect today, would force it to violate users’ privacy protections.
On Tuesday, the Facebook-owned messaging service filed a lawsuit to overturn rules requiring it to “track” the origin of messages sent through the service.
“Asking us to keep a fingerprint of every single message sent on WhatsApp will breach end-to-end encryption and fundamentally compromise people’s right to privacy,” WhatsApp, which has nearly 400 million users in India, said in a statement today.
According to Facebook’s California-based division, “We’ve consistently stood with civil society and experts around the world in opposing requirements that would jeopardise our users’ privacy. Meanwhile, we will continue to work with the Indian government on realistic ways to keep people safe, including responding to legitimate legal requests for the information we have.”
The petition asks the Delhi High Court to declare that one of the new rules, which allows social media platforms to disclose the “first originator of information” when authorities request it, is a breach of privacy rights under the Indian constitution.
WhatsApp claims that messages sent and received on its network are encrypted end-to-end, so it will have to breach encryption for those who send and receive messages to comply with the law.
WhatsApp’s petition, according to Reuters, relates to a 2017 Supreme Court decision that stated that privacy must be protected unless legality, necessity, and proportionality all weigh against it.
Platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp, and Twitter have been given three months to comply with the new digital regulations, which require them to designate a compliance officer, set up a grievance response mechanism, and remove content within 36 hours of receiving a legal order.
In addition, the sites must use automated processes to remove objectionable content.
If “significant social media intermediaries” – sites that host third-party information, messages, and posts – stand to lose protection from lawsuits and prosecution if they fail to comply, according to the Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code. As a result, they can no longer seek legal immunity for what is written on their website.
Google assured the Indian government on Tuesday that it will continue to work to ensure legal compliance, citing its “long history” of handling content in accordance with local laws.
Facebook said it “intends to comply” with the new guidelines, but it also wants to talk about certain “issues that need further interaction.”
Twitter has yet to respond; the company is embroiled in the “Congress toolkit” tweet controversy and is on the government’s and Delhi Police’s radar for labelling a BJP leader’s post as “manipulated media.”