After breaching the deadline to implement new IT rules, messaging platforms WhatsApp has moved Delhi High court challenging the new digital rules on grounds that the requirement for the company to provide access to encrypted messages will break privacy protections.
The Union government has, however, clarified that the new norms do not violate privacy, and has gone ahead with seeking a compliance report from large social media firms. According to Union IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, the new norms will not impact the normal functioning of the popular free-messaging platform.
The requirement of tracing the origin of messages under new IT rules is for prevention and investigation of ‘very serious offenses’ related to sovereignty and integrity of India and security of the state, a Union ministry statement said.
The ministry has meanwhile, also asked all significant social media companies such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and WhatsApp to report their status on compliance with the new rules, which kicked in from Wednesday.
The new rules, which were announced on February 25, require large social media platforms — defined as those with over 50 lakh users in the country — to follow additional due diligence, including the appointment of a chief compliance officer, nodal contact person, and resident grievance officer.
Non-compliance with new IT rules would strip the social media platforms of their intermediary status that provides them immunity from liabilities over any third-party data hosted by them. In other words, they could be liable for criminal action in case of complaints.
Sources with knowledge of the matter said large social media companies have been asked to immediately provide details and contact information of the three officials mandated under the new rules.
The ministry in the statement termed WhatsApp’s last moment challenge to the IT rules as an unfortunate attempt to prevent the norms from coming into effect. The UK, the US, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada require social media firms to allow for the legal interception, the Union government said.