Indian Govt wants to INTERCEPT WhatsApp encrypted chats! Voice and Video calls too!
The Indian government is proposing a new law that could annoy lovers of data privacy! You know how chats and calls on apps like WhatsApp and Signal are encrypted, and you must also know how they cannot be accessed by anyone – not even the app developer and the government. The Indian government now wants to change that and has proposed a new law for the same, allowing it to gain access to encrypted communications. If the law is passed, this could have serious implications on the data privacy and security aspects.
The new law has been proposed to apply a legal framework on the interception of OTT apps and services, which include WhatsApp and Signal. The new telecom bill, which is under consideration, could have serious implications on the data privacy aspect, given that encryption was introduced to ensure top levels of privacy whilst a chat or call.
WhatsApp chats could be read by Government?
Currently expecting public feedback, the law defines “telecommunication services means, service of any description (including broadcasting services, electronic mail, voice mail, voice, video and data communication services, audiotex services, videotex services, fixed and mobile services, internet and broadband services, satellite-based communication services. It also includes internet-based communication services, in-flight and maritime connectivity services, interpersonal communications services, machine to machine communication services, over-the-top (OTT) communication services) which is made available to users by telecommunication.”
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 the section 24 of the draft, the government, or any of its representative 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 thee tech companies respond? Encryption as a technology prevents a third party to snoop between two communicating parties. If WhatsApp and Signal have to comply with these rules, they would need to get rid of the encrypted messages. Or, they could simple shut shop in India, similar to multiple VPN operators.
Earlier this year, several VPN companies exited India after the law required them to keep a record of their user data and share with the authorities. Several big names shut their servers in India as a protest and moved to offering virtual servers for the local customers.