Instead Of Tracing Messages’ Origin, WhatsApp Provides Alternative Solutions For India
Jyotis - Sep 17, 2019
WhatsApp once stated that the company couldn’t meet the demand of the Indian government to trace the messages’ origin on its platform. According to its explanation, it didn’t want to undermine users’ privacy.
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The VP of Global Affairs and Communications at Facebook, Nick Clegg, has provided a few alternative solutions to help India control fake news on WhatsApp without tracing the messages’ origin.
WhatsApp once stated that the company couldn’t meet the demand of the Indian government to trace the messages’ origin on its famous platform. According to its explanation, it didn’t want to undermine users’ privacy.
Before becoming a new Facebook member, Clegg served as the Deputy Prime Minister of the UK. A few days ago, he had a visit to India and held a conversation with Ravi Shankar Prasad, the Minister for Electronics and Information Technology, and many other senior government officials. Clegg offered all of the possible solutions including AI-based data analytics, as well as an approach to “meta-data” for law enforcement agencies in the country.
According to a WhatsApp representative, "Facebook cares deeply about the safety of people in India and Nick's meetings this week provided opportunities to discuss our commitment to supporting privacy and security in every app we provide and how we can continue to work productively with the government of India towards these shared goals."
On December 2018, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (also known as MeitY) carried out a proposal in a bid to change the Section 79 in the Information Technology Act 2000. Accordingly, the company is required to "enable tracing out of originators of information on its platform as required by legally authorised government agencies."
The reason why India’s law enforcement authorities feel difficult to detect who is conducting a campaign of fake news in WhatsApp is due to its end-to-end encryption (E2EE) feature.
However, the free messaging platform, which has crossed more than 400 million active users, has referred to the proposals as “overbroad.”
The representative further said, "Attributing messages on WhatsApp would undermine the end-to-end encryption, and its private nature, leading to possibilities of being misused."
Until now, Facebook, the parent company of WhatsApp, has attracted more than 300 million Indian users. Back to February, WhatsApp emphasized that some regulations proposed by the Indian government which aim at social media firms in the Indian market may affect how the app is operating at present.
In an interview with IANS, the WhatsApp’s Director and Head of Communications Carl Woog said, "Of the proposed regulations, the one which concerns us the most is the emphasis on traceability of messages.”
In addition, Facebook has submitted a petition to send the Supreme Court the case of enforcement of the WhatsApp traceability. It is now under consideration by the Madras High Court.
However, Tamil Nadu has made an effort to have the Supreme Court dismiss the transfer petition from Facebook.
An IIT-Madras professor named V Kamakoti has recently revealed that WhatsApp doesn’t need to dilute its end-to-end encryption, as well as exploit users’ privacy, to tackle this issue.
He said, "If WhatsApp says it is not technically possible to show the originator of the message, I can show that it is possible."
Whenever a WhatsApp message is delivered from its own platform, the originator’s identity can be uncovered. In other words, the recipient can see both the message and the sender’s identity.
The professor further added, "When that recipient forwards the message, his/her identity can be revealed to the next recipient.” He also said that according to the court ruling, any user who forwards harmful messages must be correspondingly responsible in some certain cases.