WhatsApp, one of the country’s most popular messaging platforms, is often at the centre of controversy because it is often seen as a tool used to spread hatred and misinformation, sometimes even leading to violence and crime.
The government, as a result, has asked WhatsApp to share the origin of messages, the identity and even location of users if need be, especially if the police need these details.
Union Electronics and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad spoke with the VP of WhatsApp, Chris Daniels, in New Delhi when he specified the government’s requirements. The company has also been asked to appoint a grievance officer in India, to oversee Indian operations, reports ET.
“On the issue of traceability, I emphasised that when we talk of traceability, we don’t talk of decrypting messages,” Prasad said.
“We insist rather on location and identification of the sender of WhatsApp messages when such messages lead to provocation of violence, heinous offences and other serious crimes.”
While WhatsApp has not immediately agreed to these terms, the tech giants have promised to look into it, a response from the company can be expected soon. Speaking to ET, Daniels reportedly said that the service is not likely to give up “core” issues like maintaining encryption standards. They have, however, said that they will be announcing an India head by year-end. WhatsApp, he said, is looking for a “level playing field” for its India operations.
Daniels, in a previous August meeting with Prasad, was asked to set up an Indian representative so that complaints from the government could be addressed quickly, especially regarding fake messages. At that time, Prasad is reported to have brought up the issue of tracing messages back to its origin.
WhatsApp at that time agreed to appoint an India head as well as set up an entity here. The company has already said multiple times, notes the report, that tracing the origin and delivery point of messages would mean breaking the end-to-end encryption standard that it is famous for. The company reportedly did appoint an India grievance officer, but that officer worked off the US.
“We appreciate the opportunity to meet with government leaders, including Minister Prasad who confirmed his support for encryption and the privacy of our users,” said WhatsApp spokesperson.
“Our new Head of WhatsApp India, who will be named by the end of the year, will build a local team that can serve our customers in India as well as work with partners and government leaders to help keep people safe.”