Govt All Set To Regulate OTT Services Like WhatsApp, Facebook, Google Talk; Was it Inevitable?
This is one of those watershed moments in the Indian technological industry; the moment when Govt. has decided to intrude, and interfere in the workings of private tech companies.
And at this moment, we are not exactly sure whether this will be good for the end-users or not, because the implications of this historic decision is so massive, that it may take days and weeks before we truly understand its impact.
Govt. has informed Supreme Court that they will regulate and monitor all OTT services which includes WhatsApp, Facebook, Google Talk, Skype, WeChat and more.
And this can change so many things now..
OTT Services Should Be Regulated?
A petitioner named Karmanya Singh Sareen filed a case in Supreme Court, wherein it was argued that private OTT service providers such as WhatsApp, Facebook and others are offering telecom based services, yet they are over and above any regulatory mechanism.
The logic was that these private companies are using existing telecom infrastructure to connect one user with the other, hence, they need to be monitored and regulated using Govt. regulations and rules.
In response to this petition, OTT service providers hired Senior advocates Kapil Sibal and K K Venugopal to fight this case. They argued that “”OTT services are governed in some respect by the provisions of Information Technology Act, 2000 and are not subject to the same regulatory mechanism that is enforced on conventional voice and messaging services provided by telecom service providers”.
In their counter response, Department of Telecom, which is representing the Centre said that they will soon form regulations and rules to monitor every OTT service provider active in India.
The Issue Of Privacy Is Relevant Now?
Petitioner who is seeking regulations also argued on the issue of privacy. Madhavi Divan, who is representing Karmanya Singh argued that since OTT Service providers are offering telecom-like services, their platform should be monitored and regulated. Absence such regulation not only violates ‘Right to Privacy’, but also kills Right of Free Speech as mentioned under Article 19(1)(a).
However, this logic doesn’t hold true, as WhatsApp and other major OTT service providers are already encrypting every conversation, and even they cannot access these messages, even if they want to. The same argument was presented by Senior Lawyer Kapil Sibal.
Supreme Court has now referred this case to a 5-Judge bench, and the case would be now heard of April 18th, to determine whether Centre should be allowed to regulate and monitor OTT service providers or not.
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