WhatsApp sues Indian government over new privacy laws

The law requires social media companies to identify users when authorities demand it, which could see the end of encryption

Facebook-owned WhatsApp has filed a lawsuit against the Indian government in a bid to block regulations that would force the company to break privacy protections for its users.

The case, filed at the Delhi High Court, declares that India's new internet laws violate privacy rights in the country's constitution as it requires social media companies to identify the "first originator of information" when authorities demand it, according to Reuters.

Even though the law requires the company to identify users accused of wrongdoing, WhatsApp said this is not possible in practice. As messages are end-to-end encrypted, it would mean that the company would have to break encryption for receivers, as well as originators, in order to comply with the new law.

"Civil society and technical experts around the world have consistently argued that a requirement to 'trace' private messages would break end-to-end encryption and lead to real abuse. WhatsApp is committed to protecting the privacy of people's personal messages and we will continue to do all we can within the laws of India to do so," a WhatsApp spokesperson said to IT Pro.

India's new rules also dictate that social media companies must remove content within 36 hours of a legal order, appoint Indian citizens to key compliance roles, and set up a mechanism to deal with complaints. Furthermore, they must use automated processes to take down pornography.

The lawsuit is another example of the tensions between tech giants and Modi's government in India. Earlier this week, Indian police visited Twitter's office in Delhi to serve a notice to the country's managing director about an investigation into how it tagged posts by a ruling party spokesperson on its platform.

It labelled the post as "manipulated media" following complaints from the opposition party, who said the document shared in the post, which criticised the government's handling of the pandemic and was allegedly published by the opposition, was fake.

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