WhatsApp may oppose these new guidelines

New Delhi: Social messaging app WhatsApp is yet again in the news as the Facebook-owned messaging app is fighting for its users’ privacy.

Sources familiar with the matter said WhatsApp will oppose the proposed rules which require it to disclose the information about the messages origination as this will be a violation of privacy and free speech rights when it feels confidentiality is a critical element of the product.

The Indian authorities are pressurizing the social networking applications functioning in India to disclose the users information, the conversation between the users in order to tackle the fake news issue that has sparked violence, lynchings across the nation.

The new Intermediary guidelines from the authorities will be announced after the elections. These new guidelines will probably include penalties and jail terms for executives of social media companies and messaging apps for non-compliance on matters such as message traceability, ET reported.

“WhatsApp feels the proposed guidelines are too broad and not in sync with privacy protection norms that are important to people everywhere,” said one source.
“What is expected from the rules is just not possible considering the end-to-end encryption the company provides — it would mean a new product,” he added.

“The company will continue to push back against government’s attempts that it feels weaken its end-to-end encryption feature,” said another source.

“The product is designed so as to deliberately not collect records of users messaging on the system, changing or altering this in any manner would have global ramifications, ” he added.

Giving in to the new guidelines would mean “keeping records of, and having access to, personal data of users at all times, even when a crime has not been committed,” another source said.

“National security and integrity in most countries would override all privacy concerns. In the backdrop of recent occurrences, there is a valid concern that WhatsApp has been utilised in some instances for anti-national activities. Somewhere we will need to weigh national security concerns against the right to privacy and come up with something sensible,” said Tushar Ajinkya, partner at Economic Laws Practice (ELP).

“There needs to be significant checks and balances to see that there is no misuse. For a company to say that we will not comply at all may be considered a bit excessive,” he added.

Defending the privacy clause, WhatsApp last week stated: “People rely on WhatsApp for all kinds of sensitive conversations, including with their doctors, banks and families. The police also use WhatsApp to discuss investigations and report crimes.”

“Attributing messages on WhatsApp would undermine end-to-end encryption and the private nature of WhatsApp, creating the potential for serious misuse. Our focus is on improving WhatsApp and working closer with others in society to help keep people safe.”