Meta policy chief Nick Clegg was told that the government would enforce traceability for law enforcement and security purposes on WhatsApp, during a last visit to India, last month.
Enforcement Of Traceability For Law Enforcement and Security Purposes
The government wants to go ahead with the plan even if the courts struck down a legal provision on detecting the first originator of messages, said the sources.
That time, a senior official told Clegg that the big tech firm can make suggestions on the language of the traceability provision that it can live with, sources said.
Further adding, “The government said Meta can come back with language on traceability provision that the company can live with. But, it has to be done quickly as they mentioned that the draft Digital India Act could be out before Christmas,”.
Obligations On Traceability
“Clegg was told in no uncertain terms that Meta can go and file any number of cases in the courts, but the government will find one way or another to press the obligation of traceability,”sources said.
Last year, one of the social media giant’s said that the government can’t enforce such a law via notifying changes to Rules when WhatsApp and Meta (formerly Facebook) had mounted a legal challenge to the traceability provision in the IT Rules Amendments.
But according to the experts, rules are subordinate legislation as they can be directly notified by the government without passing a new law through the Parliament.
It is noteworthy here that the Rules can still be debated in the Parliament but they do not require voting by legislators unlike Acts.
Why Is It Important?
Besides this, Clegg was told that the traceability provision was important to handle law enforcement such as terrorism cases, Ilin another meeting with a second top-ranking official.
“The official said it would not be possible for the government track down a terrorist handler who was sitting in Pakistan, and sending messages to an operative in India. Subsequently, Meta representatives explained that traceability won’t help much in such a situation — if a person takes a screenshot of a message and sends that to someone, you can’t figure out the first originator anyway,” said the sources.
While all this is happening, the issue of traceability still remains at an impasse after Nick Clegg’s high powered visit to India where he met multiple ministers and officials.
In the meantime, Meta is wary of the traceability provision as it would mean breaking the end-to-end encryption of WhatsApp messages which is a central feature of the platform.
In one of Clegg’s meetings with senior government officials, the formation of a multi-party technical group on traceability came up.
On this subject, a Meta spokesperson said, “We deeply appreciate the opportunity to discuss how Meta can work together with the government to achieve India’s Techade goals. Since these were closed-door meetings, we would not be able to share more information,”.