FP StaffSep 23, 2022 12:53:22 IST
The Government of India has proposed a new law that would allow it to intercept encrypted messages, calls and video calls on platforms like WhatsApp, Telegram, Google Meet, Signal etc.
A new draft telecommunications bill was uploaded on Wednesday which states that the government wants to give investigative authorities the ability to circumvent the encryption that several OTT communication services, like WhatsApp, Signal, and Telegram use.
In the bill, telecommunication services are defined as anything to do with broadcasting, email, voice mail, video-communication and audio-communication services, and other similar internet services.
The Indian Government is seeking public feedback on the draft.
Modern-day users who are aware of privacy and security concerns always want to go for services which have end-to-end encryption. That is why you will see companies like Meta spend billions of advertisements just to say that their services have this functionality. Platforms like Signal and Telegram were also able to take off and capture a major chunk of the IM market from WhatsApp because the communication on these platforms is encrypted.
The proposed law would have far-reaching effects on the industry that now prioritises user safety and data privacy.
A section of the draft states that the state and/or central government may circumvent encryption “on the occurrence of any public emergency or in the interest of the public safety.”
Any service can be added to the definition and that could give the government access to all encrypted chats, voice calls, video calls, and more. Under Section 24 of the draft, the government, or any of its representatives can demand access “on the occurrence of any public emergency or in the interest of the public safety.” It remains to be seen whether this draft gets a nod and if so, how will the tech companies respond.
If WhatsApp and Signal have to comply with these rules, they would need to get rid of the encrypted messages. Or, they could simply shut shop in India, similar to multiple VPN operators who exited the Indian market.
Earlier this year, several VPN companies exited India after a law was passed that required them to keep a record of their user data and share it with authorities when asked to. Several prominent VPN providers shut their servers in India as a protest, with some downright exiting the Indian market altogether.