What you need to know
- WhatsApp has moved the Delhi High Court to challenge India's new IT rules.
- The new rules require social media intermediaries to make provisions to trace users' messages.
- The Facebook-owned messaging app has argued that the new rules undermine the privacy of its users.
Facebook-owned messaging app WhatsApp has filed a lawsuit in India to challenge new government rules that would require it to make provisions to allow users' encrypted messages to be traced. WhatsApp says the rules "fundamentally undermine people's right to privacy" and would break end-to-end encryption on its platform.
WhatsApp also believes that tracing messages would not just be ineffective but also highly susceptible to abuse. Since traceability would force the best Android messaging apps to hand over the names of people who shared something even if they did not create it, innocent people might get caught up in investigations.
In a post explaining its stand on traceability, WhatsApp wrote:
WhatsApp deployed end-to-end encryption throughout our app in 2016, so that calls, messages, photos, videos, and voice notes to friends and family are only shared with the intended recipient and no one else (not even us).
"Traceability" is intended to do the opposite by requiring private messaging services like WhatsApp to keep track of who-said-what and who-shared-what for billions of messages sent every day. Traceability requires messaging services to store information that can be used to ascertain the content of people's messages, thereby breaking the very guarantees that end-to-end encryption provides. In order to trace even one message, services would have to trace every message.
The lawsuit comes a day after WhatsApp parent Facebook confirmed that it will comply with the new provisions of the new IT rules. However, it is yet to appoint a resident grievance officer, a chief compliance officer and a nodal contact person as required by the new norms.