Following the uproar over the alleged rape of a customer in an Uber taxi, the government and its various agencies reacted swiftly, announcing a nationwide ban on operations of Uber and other unregistered taxi services.
But four days later, it is dawning on the government that implementing a ban that must negotiate the amorphous world of internet is easier said than done. Senior government officials, including those in the Ministries of Information Technology and Law, are learnt to have made it clear to the government that the decision to announce a ban on Uber and other companies was “a knee-jerk reaction”.
“I was asked by senior functionaries of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs about the steps that should be taken to enforce the ban on Uber. It was surprising how little these officials knew about what Uber was actually doing — that it was not a taxi operator but was only an intermediary,” a senior IT department official said.
“Then they said the Uber app should be banned under the Information Technology Act. I told them it can’t be done. There is no two-minute noodle solution to this issue. It will require a lot of coordination among various departments of the government as well as cooperation from foreign agencies.”
The official explained that while the IT Act empowers the designated government functionary to “lawfully intercept or monitor or decrypt any information through any computer resource”, such an action is “extremely difficult” to enforce when the computer resource in question is an app.
“Take for example Uber. It is a mobile application that can be downloaded from Google Play, Apple or Windows store, all managed by foreign entities. How can any agency stop any individual from downloading this app? We will have to prevail upon these three entities to stop allowing downloading of Uber’s app,” the official said.