Google, Facebook, Whatsapp Forced To Kill Users’ Privacy; ‘Unlawful’ Content Will Be Traced In India
Govt. wants online portals and platforms to trace, track users' activity for checking 'unlawful' activity.
In yet another major blow to Internet freedom in India, Govt. of India has proposed several amendments to Sectio 79 of the Information Technology Act, which, if approved, can spell doom to users’ privacy in India.
Indian Express has reported that a secret meeting has already taken place between Govt. and representatives of major online platforms and social media like Google, Facebook and others.
What Govt. wants to do exactly?
Keep reading to find out more!
Govt. Wants To Trace and Track ‘Unlawful’ Content
Section 79 of the IT Act exempts intermediaries from liability in certain instances, especially on the Internet. Hence, if any unlawful content is shared on Whatsapp or Google, then the platforms won’t be directly responsible.
Govt. of India has proposed amendments to this section, and if approved by law, then the intermediaries will be directly responsible for any unlawful content.
For this, Govt. wants these online platforms and portals to deploy technology which ensures that they are able to trace and track any information shared and posted on their portal.
As per Indian Express, a closed-door meeting was held between Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) with others from the Cyber Law Division, and representatives of Google, Facebook, WhatsApp, Amazon, Yahoo, Twitter, ShareChat, SEBI and The Internet Service Providers Association of India.
A 5-page draft of the proposed laws has already been created.
Which New Laws Would Be Amended?
In the draft created for the new IT Act, called as The Information Technology [Intermediaries Guidelines (Amendment) Rules] 2018, Rule 3(9) has been added, which requires “intermediaries”, or online platforms, to “deploy technology based automated tools or appropriate mechanisms, with appropriate controls, for proactively identifying or removing or disabling access to unlawful information or content”.
A new Rule 3(4) has been added, which mandates all online platforms to warn and alert users over such content.
And the most interesting is Rule 3(5), which will force the online platforms/portals to trace and track all users, check and monitor their content, even if that means destroying end-to-end encryption which is provided to ensure users’ privacy.
For instance Whatsapp, which has implemented end-to-end encryption for all users in India.
Govt. has repeatedly told Whatsapp to break this end-to-end encryption rule and to trace messages, but Whatsapp has refused to follow this order til now.
Is This Violation Of Fundamental Rights?
In case IT Act amendments are passed, then Whatsapp will be forced to trace users, thereby signaling the death of users’ privacy.
Apar Gupta, lawyer and co-founder of The Internet Freedom Foundation has declared that these new amendments break the fundamental rights of Indians.
He said, “The draft rules have been shared with us, and we will issue a detailed analysis. But on the face of it, they seem to be contemplating pro-active censorship and breaking encryption with traceability. They will make the Internet a corporal environment damaging the fundamental rights of users,”
Interestingly, N N Kaul, Communications Coordinator (MeitY) has denied any such development as he had “no knowledge of such a meeting having been held”.
It seems that the proposals and amendments were drafted the same day when Ministry of Home Affairs drafted the order which empowered 10 Govt. agencies to track and trace any mobile or computer in India.
We will keep you updated, as we receive more information.