“Reports suggest law enforcement agencies will have to get a court order to request social networks to trace the source of specific messages”
The BJP-led union government is planning to enforce traceability of messages on apps such as WhatsApp, Facebook, and Telegram to help authorities find users creating and spreading controversial content. According to reports from TechCrunch and The Economic Times, the government will request social media platforms to find the originator of controversial content and fake news. The report from ET, citing officials aware of the draft rules, says that law enforcement agencies will have to get a court order to request social networks to trace the source of specific messages.
Back in December 2018, the Centre published a draft set of rules for the social media platforms to include a clause of traceability. However, WhatsApp didn’t want to oblige as it has to break its end-to-end message encryption. A government official told The Economic Times that enabling traceability would raise the possibility of misuse, “Any request for traceability can be misused, commercially, politically or technically. Traceability is a privacy violation, so provisions under the Puttaswamy judgment which permit such violation under certain conditions have to be applied, otherwise it won’t stand legal scrutiny.”
Earlier this month, experts from Google, Twitter, and Mozilla wrote to the government asking it to drop traceability demands. Software Freedom and Law Centre (SLFC), which is a digital advocacy organization had also asked the government to remove the clause from the upcoming bill. Traceability opens up backdoors in apps with encryption as there’s a possibility of misuse.
In related news, Apple has also dropped its plans of encrypting iCloud backups after FBI intervention. It has been the same with government across the world and remains to be seen where it would lead.