The Indian telecom watchdog is planning to lawfully intercept the communication sent or received on WhatsApp and other platforms owned by Over-The-Top (OTT) service providers.
A report by The Indian Express said that the Indian telecom regulator was working on a set of recommendations for the DoT arguing in favour of regulating the OTT platforms. The paper quoted an unnamed official from the TRAI as saying, “Currently, OTTs aren’t subject to lawful interception. This brings the question of regulatory imbalance between telecom players, which have to adhere to lawful requests of enforcement agencies for interceptions, and OTTs which don’t give, saying the communication is end-to-end encrypted. We are finding out more about international practices. What is being followed outside, the same should be provided to the Indian government as well.”
If the DoT accepts the recommendations made by the TRAI, this will allow the government to legally monitor the communications exchanged on the Facebook-owned messaging platform. WhatsApp has made it clear that it doesn’t store users’ messages. Its website says, “WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption is available when you and the people you message use our app. Many messaging apps only encrypt messages between you and them, but WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption ensures only you and the person you’re communicating with can read what is sent, and nobody in between, not even WhatsApp. This is because your messages are secured with a lock, and only the recipient and you have the special key needed to unlock and read them. For added protection, every message you send has its own unique lock and key. All of this happens automatically: no need to turn on settings or set up special secret chats to secure your messages.”
According to WhatsApp, undelivered messages are automatically deleted from its servers after 30 days. The fact that the messaging platform doesn’t keep the logs of its users’ messages, has posed a problem of sorts to the government. Keeping this in mind, the TRAI has decided to formulate directives that can allow the government to lawfully intercept messages shared on their platforms.
The Supreme Court is currently hearing a transfer petition of a case on traceability of WhatsApp messages originally filed in the Madras High Court. The next date of hearing is on 22 October.