According to Indian laws, WhatsApp’s latest introuction of end-to-end encryption service is illegal to operate in the country. Making you mind means, all of WhatsApp features including group messaging, voice calls and personal texts are encrypted and cannot be accesed by anyone else, and the WhatsApp itself, other than the sender and receiver. Admitted that this new WhatsApp encryption feature helps ensures users’ privacy, though it may land into logal concerns in India. Why?
While WhatsApp has enabled a 256-bit encryption where the Indian law only permits up to 40-bit for the private parties. However, this Indian Government’s encryption policy is primarily for Internet service providers and cellular carriers, and WhatsApp is an OTT player that doesn’t have any operations in the country. Technically, WhatsApp woouldn’t come under Indian purview for encryption. But it is now acquired by Facebook, WhatsApp has seperate offices and operations in India, it comes under the Indian law voilation.
To remind you that last month, Facebook’s vice president of Latin America was arrested in Brazil for WhatsApp’s refusal to turn up information related to drug traffiking cases, later the executive was released and Facebook claimed WhatsApp was a seperate entity which didn’t store user information.
End-to-end encryption was implemented by WhatsApp, that kind now becomes a huge challenge for law enforcement agencies considering even the app cannot decropt the user info. With that said, similar one happened with BlackBerry in India a few years ago, where it was forced to set up its servers in the country to provide information to the Govt of India in a readable format, if it serves a legal warranty to do so.
Now comes the Telecom Ragulatory Authority of India (TRAI), dropped a consultation paper for regularizing the OTT players in India last year. On encrypton, the regulator had accepted that “special encryptions” make it difficult for twa enforcing agencies to intercept. In fact, BlackBerry had agreed to monitor, track and interact its services including mails, chats and browsing history on its devices after prolonged persuasion by the government of India.
Encryption in WhatsApp case is higher than setting a limit and the company doesn’t possess any decryption keys either can be “handed over” to the regulator. Unlikely that WhatsApp would even set up servers in India and provide the govt access to it or create any backdoors.
Here’s what the WhatsApp co-founders Jan Koum and Brian Acton had written in a blog post announcing the end-to-end encryption. “No one can see inside that message. Not cybercriminals. Not hackers. Not oppressive regimes. Not even us. End-to-end encryption helps make communication via WhatsApp private – sort of like a face-to-face conversation.”
WhatsApp’s desire for privacy comes from it co-founder Jan Koum, whose team escaped the USSR and migrtaed to the U.S. Could be the reason why WhatsApp never implemented advertising as a revenue model, since it could have been a breach of the user’s privacy.
“The desire to protect people’s private communication is one of the core beliefs we have at WhatsApp, and for me, it’s personal. I grew up in the USSR during communist rule and the fact that people couldn’t speak freely is one of the reasons my family moved to the United States.”
WhatsApp worth one billion user base worldwide and still growing, but a major share of its database, over 100 million, reside in India, is highly popular among the Indian youngsters, if the goverment is likely to take any extremne action in imposing a ban on the service, would make WhatsApp step up pressure to backtrack the encryption decision.
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