New Delhi: Taking the user privacy war to the court over new IT rules, Facebook-owned WhatsApp filed a lawsuit against the Indian government in the Delhi High Court, saying that user privacy is in its DNA and requiring messaging apps to “trace” chats undermines people’s right to privacy.
The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) had asked social media platforms to abide by the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 by May 25, or face strict action.
A WhatsApp spokesperson said that requiring messaging apps to “trace” chats is the equivalent of asking us to keep a fingerprint of every single message sent on WhatsApp.
“It would break end-to-end encryption and fundamentally undermines people’s right to privacy. We have consistently joined civil society and experts around the world in opposing requirements that would violate the privacy of our users,” the spokesperson stressed.
The company said that in the meantime, “we will also continue to engage with the Government of India on practical solutions aimed at keeping people safe, including responding to valid legal requests for the information available to us”.
The Indian government was yet to react to the lawsuit.
The tussle between Twitter, WhatsApp and Facebook and the Union government has reached its nadir, with cops raiding Twitter offices in the pandemic earlier this week over the ToolKit controversy.
WhatsApp has gone to the court as the deadline to comply with the new IT (intermediary) rules meant for big social media platforms in India ended on May 25.
WhatsApp said that new rules infringe on users’ privacy.
The MeitY had announced its draft new IT (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules for social media platforms on February 25.
As per the new rules, the social media platforms will have to remove offending content within 36 hours after a government directive or a legal order.
Twitter asks IT Ministry for 3-month extension on new rules
New Delhi: With WhatsApp suing the Indian government over the new IT rules for social media platforms, Twitter requested the IT Ministry to consider a minimum of three-month extension in order for the company to implement the new intermediary guidelines.
Twitter, which witnessed a police raid on its offices in Delhi and Gurugram early this week related to the alleged Congress toolkit controversy, said that it reaffirms that Twitter continues to accept grievances from users and law enforcement via its existing grievance redressal channel available under the new IT Rules.
Stressing that it will strive to comply with applicable law in India, a Twitter spokesperson said in a statement that right now, “we are concerned by recent events regarding our employees in India and the potential threat to freedom of expression for the people we serve”.
“We, alongside many in civil society in India and around the world, have concerns with regards to the use of intimidation tactics by the police in response to enforcement of our global Terms of Service, as well as with core elements of the new IT Rules,” Twitter said in its first reaction after the police raids on its offices.
Need to maintain law & order: IT Minister
Electronics & IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has said the government is committed to the right to privacy, but simultaneously it also has to maintain law and order and ensure national security.
“The Government of India is committed to ensure the Right of Privacy to all its citizens but at the same time it is also the responsibility of the government to maintain law and order and ensure national security,” an official statement quoted the IT Minister Prasad as saying.
The statement said that the government respects the right of privacy and has no intention to violate it when WhatsApp is required to disclose the origin of a particular message.
It however, added that as per all established judicial dictum, no fundamental right, including the right to privacy, is absolute and it is subject to reasonable restrictions.
“The requirements in the Intermediary Guidelines pertaining to the first originator of information are an example of such a reasonable restriction,” it said.