Friday, May 24, 2024

We will leave India if told to break encryption: WhatsApp tells Delhi High Court

Messaging application WhatsApp on Thursday told the Delhi High Court that the company would leave India if it was compelled to break encryption of messages and calls under the 2021 Information Technology Rules.

The HC was hearing a plea by WhatsApp and its parent company Meta challenging a provision of the Information Technology Rules for social media companies, requiring them to identify the first originator of information.

Advocate Tejas Karia, appearing for WhatsApp, said people use the platform because of the privacy assured by it and because messages on it are end-to-end encrypted.

“As a platform, we are saying, if we are told to break encryption, then WhatsApp goes,” Karia told a Bench of Acting Chief Justice Manmohan and Justice Manmeet Pritam Singh Arora.

The requirement, he said, was against users’ privacy and was introduced without consultation.

Karia said this rule will require WhatsApp to store millions of messages for years, a requirement that exists nowhere else in the world. “We will have to keep a complete chain and we don’t know which messages will be asked to be decrypted. It means millions and millions of messages will have to be stored for a number of years,” he said.

Karia said that the parent Information Technology Act does not provide for breaking of encryption.

The Court then asked if such a law exists anywhere else in the world. “Have these matters been taken up anywhere in the world? You have never been asked to share the information anywhere in the world? Even in South America?” Karia replied, “No, not even in Brazil.”

Earlier, the Union government told the court that WhatsApp and Facebook monetise users’ information for commercial purposes and are not legally entitled to claim that it protects privacy. The Union also said regulators of various countries hold that Facebook should be made accountable.

The court has listed the matter on August 14.

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