Modi govt to amend IT Act to trace rogue messages on WhatsApp

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The Union government said that to trace rogue messages on platforms such as , it has proposed to amend the Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules, 2011 of the IT Act, 2000. “The proposed amendments, inter alia, included Intermediaries to enable traceability of the originator of the information which is expected to curb circulation of rogue messages,” the ministry of electronics and IT (MeitY) said in response to a question in the Lok Sabha.

The response also said that WhatsApp is an intermediary within the definition of the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000. The draft amendments were made public in December 2018 and the government recently informed the Supreme Court that it plans to finalise them by January 15, 2020.

In response to another question on the Personal Data Protection Bill, MeitY said that the committee headed by Justice BN Srikrishna, retired judge, Supreme Court in its report and the draft bill, proposed to categorise personal data into three categories – personal data, sensitive personal data and critical personal data. And government intends to keep the definition same in the final Bill which is expected to be tabled in the Parliament. “On the same lines as proposed by the Committee, it is proposed to categorize personal data into three categories of personal data namely personal, sensitive personal and critical personal data,” it said.

Meity had constituted a Committee of Experts under the Chairmanship of Justice Srikrishna in July 2017 and the committee gave its report on 27th July, 2018. “The Committee also submitted a draft . Wide consultations were held on the draft bill and open feedback was invited on the contents of the bill. These are currently being processed and it is proposed to table the bill in Parliament,” the reply added.

Meity also said that there is no such proposal for linking Aadhaar with social media accounts of individuals.

On rising instances of cyber crime, Meity told the Lok Sabha that 3,13,649 instances of cyber security instances have been reported to and have been tracked by Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (Cert-In) till October this year compared to 50,362, 53,117 and 208,456 incidents including phishing, network scanning and probing, virus/malicious code and website hacking during 2016, 2017 and 2018 respectively.

“In tune with the dynamic nature of Information Technology and emerging cyber threats, continuous efforts are required to be made by owners to protect networks by way of hardening and deploying appropriate security controls,” Meity said.

It also added that government has asked Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to work out a suitable arrangement for receiving Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), UK list of CSAM websites/webpages on a dynamic basis and block access to child pornography webpages/websites. The Department of Telecom (DoT) has also requested all ISPs to make suitable arrangement to spread awareness among their subscribers about the use of parental control filters in the end-user machines through messages of email, invoices, SMS, website.

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