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Will shut down India operations if forced to break encryption: WhatsApp tells Delhi HC

WhatsApp won't stay if it is made to break encryption of messages, the messaging service platform has told Delhi High Court in a case challenging the amended IT rules. WhatsApp and Facebook (now Meta) have challenged Rule 4(2) of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.
 

Will shut down India operations if forced to break encryption: WhatsApp tells Delhi HC gcw
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First Published Apr 26, 2024, 11:07 AM IST

In an ongoing hearing at the Delhi High Court, Meta-owned WhatsApp told the court that it would effectively cease operations in India if it is forced to compromise message encryption. The platform made a point of emphasising that the foundation of its services is end-to-end encryption, which protects user privacy by guaranteeing that communication content is only accessible by the sender and receiver.

Tejas Karia, speaking on behalf of WhatsApp, said, "As a platform, we are saying, if we are told to break encryption, then WhatsApp goes." He underscored that people choose WhatsApp for its robust privacy features. With over 400 million users, India stands as WhatsApp’s largest market.

This came after the High Court listed for hearing on August 14 petitions by WhatsApp LLC and its parent company Facebook Inc, now Meta, challenging the 2021 Information Technology (IT) rules for social media intermediaries requiring the messaging app to trace chats and make provisions to identify the first originator of information.

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg previously lauded India’s adoption of messaging technologies during a virtual address at Meta’s annual event last year. “India (is) a country that’s at the forefront… You’re leading the world in terms of how people and businesses have embraced messaging,” he had said.

The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021, which require conversation tracking and original messenger identity, are being contested by WhatsApp and its parent company, Meta.

The bench ordered that the matter be listed for hearing on August 14 to await the transfer of all other petitions challenging several aspects of the 2021 IT Rules to it pursuant to a Supreme Court order.

Earlier, the Centre told the court that WhatsApp and Facebook monetise users' information for commercial purposes and are not legally entitled to claim that it protects privacy. The Centre also said regulators of various countries hold that Facebook should be made accountable.

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