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Govt to WhatsApp: Not seeking decryption, but traceability of provocative messages

The first time the govt demanded traceability from WhatsApp was in July, when the IT ministry sent two notices to the firm in a span of 16 days.

By: ENS Economic Bureau | New Delhi |
Updated: November 1, 2018 2:45:40 am
whatsapp, whatsapp india, whatsapp traceability, rs prasad,whatsapp privacy, whatsapp decrypting messages, chris daniels, whatsapp lynching, mob lynching, social media, govt india During the meeting in August, Prasad had told Daniels to establish a local set-up in India, including a grievance centre and a facility to store financial data locally.

Clarifying the Centre’s stand on seeking traceability of WhatsApp messages, Minister of Law & Justice and Electronics & Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad told the messaging platform’s CEO Chris Daniels the government “does not want WhatsApp to decrypt and read messages” but if the law enforcement agencies require then WhatsApp should be able to share trace the origin of the message.

“CEO of Whatsapp Chris Daniels and his team met the Union IT and Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad today. We discussed about the progress made on the issues which were discussed in the last meeting…WhatsApp heard this request (traceability) from the government and said that we will look into the issue and get back,” an official statement by the IT ministry noted. This was Daniels’s second meeting with Prasad since August. Prasad also advised that WhatsApp that, in view of the upcoming elections in India, the company should “work to maintain sanity of the platform”.

“…it is appropriate and desirable that the institutional integrity of this platform is maintained, so that abusers cannot abuse it. They (WhatsApp) have also assured that they will work with my department in preventing circulation of spam farms,” Prasad said. Over the past few months, WhatsApp has taken a number of steps to meet the government’s concerns but has not yielded to its biggest demand – identifying originators of rogue messages.

The first time the government demanded traceability from WhatsApp was in July, when the IT ministry sent two notices to the company in a span of 16 days, in light of killing of a software engineer in Bidar, Karnataka due to inflammatory messages being circulated on the app . “There is a need for bringing in traceability and accountability when a provocative/inflammatory message is detected and a request is made by law enforcement agencies. When rumours and fake news get propagated by mischief mongers, the medium used for such propagation cannot evade responsibility and accountability. If they remain mute spectators they are liable to be treated as abettors and thereafter face consequent legal action,” the IT ministry had said in July.

However, after their August-meeting, the minister told journalists that the measures taken by WhatsApp on tackling circulation of fake news did not meet the government’s expectations on ‘traceability’ and attribution of such messages.

During the meeting in August, Prasad had told Daniels to establish a local set-up in India, including a grievance centre and a facility to store financial data locally. “They have assured us that they have appointed a grievance officer for India. I have suggested that we will appreciate if grievance officer is also located in India,” Prasad said on Wednesday. A WhatsApp spokesperson said: “We appreciate the opportunity to meet with government leaders, including Minister Prasad who confirmed his support for encryption and the privacy of our users. WhatsApp is deeply committed to serving the people of India and working closely with civil society and government leaders to help address abuse on our platform”. —With PTI

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