New IT rules allow message tracing without any judicial review: WhatsApp in Delhi HC petition

By Express News Service
NEW DELHI: WhatsApp on Tuesday approached the Delhi High Court against the new rules announced by the Centre for digital media companies and said this will force them to break end-to-end encryption — a move that infringes upon the right to privacy and free speech of hundreds of millions of WhatsApp users.

In its 234-page plea, the social media giant said the company does not believe traceability can be imposed in a way that cannot be spoofed or modified, leading to new ways for people to be framed for things they did not say or do.

The plea was moved a day after the deadline for social media companies to put in place new mechanisms to comply with the rules passed.

Whatsapp has challenged section 4 of Part II of the rules that were notified on February 25 which says that a significant social media intermediary providing services primarily in the nature of messaging shall enable the identification of the first originator of the information.

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“Supreme Court has emphasised the importance of judicial review before the invasion of privacy occurs to guarantee against arbitrary action by the State (Puttaswamy judgment). The new IT Rules allow message tracing without any judicial review,” the petition stated.

The company said it is committed to doing all it can to protect the privacy of people’s personal messages and that is why it is opposing traceability.

“Citizens will not speak freely for fear that their private communications will be traced and used against them. We are not aware of any country that requires intermediaries to do this,” the plea stated adding that the harm that can be caused is dangerous and disproportionate.

The petition also cited the risk journalists and activists will be facing if the new IT rules will be adhered to and said, “Journalists could be at risk of retaliation for investigating issues that may be unpopular. Activists could be at risk for discussing certain rights and criticising politicians or policies. Clients and lawyers could become reluctant to share confidential information related to their case.”