FP staffSeptember 23, 2022 12:53:22 IST
The Indian government has proposed a new law that would allow it to intercept encrypted messages, calls and video calls on platforms such as WhatsApp, Telegram, Google Meet, Signal etc.
A new draft telecommunications law was uploaded on Wednesday stating that the government wants to give investigative authorities the ability to bypass the encryption that several OTT communications services, like whatsappUse of, Signal and Telegram.
In the bill, telecommunication services are defined as anything having to do with broadcasting, email, voice mail, video and audio communication and other similar Internet services.
The Indian government is seeking public feedback on the draft.
Modern users who are aware of privacy and security issues always want to opt for services that have end-to-end encryption. That’s why you’ll see companies like Meta spend billions on advertising just to say their services have this functionality. Platforms such as Signal and Telegram have also been able to take off and capture an important slice of the instant messaging market from WhatsApp because communication on these platforms is encrypted.
The proposed law would have far-reaching effects on the industry which now prioritizes user safety and data privacy.
One section of the draft states that the state and / or central government can evade encryption “in the event of any public emergency or in the interest of public security.”
Any service can be added to the definition and that could allow the government to access all encrypted chats, voice calls, video calls and more. Under Article 24 of the project, the government or any of its representatives can request access “in the event of any public emergency or in the interest of public security”. Whether this draft gets a nod and, if so, how tech companies will respond remains to be seen.
If WhatsApp and Signal have to comply with these rules, they should get rid of the encrypted messages. Or they could just close shop in India, similar to multiple VPN operators exiting the Indian market.
Earlier this year, several VPN companies moved out of India after a law was passed that required them to keep records of user data and share it with authorities when required. Several major VPN providers have shut down their servers in India in protest, with some exiting the Indian market altogether.