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Indian govt should be able to read private WhatsApp messages, Parliament Panel tells tech companies

The report submitted by the panel requested social media sites to monitor objectionable content that incites violence and gives rise to child pornography

twitter-logo Ankita Chakravarti   New Delhi     Last Updated: January 27, 2020  | 18:39 IST

Highlights

  • The panel suggested that apps that are exposed to the audiences of all age groups should have a separate section for people above 18.
  • The government earlier hinted that it wanted messaging apps like WhatsApp to weaken the end-to-end encryption.
  • The company believes that weakening encryption, even for law enforcement purposes, will weaken the privacy of all users and not just alleged criminals

This one is to stop child pornography, or so says parliamentary panel as it reportedly argues for breaking of encryption in chat apps like WhatsApp. The breaking of encryption for law enforcement purposes will help the government keep an eye on objectionable texts, the panel has hinted.

According to a report by Reuters, an ad-hoc committee of Rajya Sabha has recommended that, if required, the Indian government and law enforcement agencies should be able to keep an eye on messages, images and videos that Indians share so that people sharing child pornography or objectionable material can be monitored and caught.

The panel, which according to reports consists of 14 members and is led by Rajya Sabha MP Jairam Ramesh, suggests that the apps that are exposed to the audiences of all age groups should have a separate section for people above 18 and should not be accessed by minors or children. More significantly, it suggests the weakening of encryption that chat apps like WhatsApp apply on messages.

"The committee recommends modifying the IT Rules 2011 to include the ability to trace the originator or sender of the message shared on end-to-end encryption platforms in cases where CSAM that has been shared has come to the attention of law enforcement agencies," the report submitted by the panel read. The panel has also requested alteration in the POSCO Act 2012.

The government earlier hinted that it wanted messaging apps like WhatsApp to weaken the end-to-end encryption so that law enforcement agencies if required, could access and read messages. WhatsApp, on the other hand, has not been in favour of ending the encryption. The company believes that weakening encryption, even for law enforcement purposes, will weaken the privacy of all users and not just alleged criminals. It will also open users to abuse from authorities and may lead to mass surveillance.

The panel also urged the internet service providers to monitor, report and remove content that incites any sort of violence or that gives rise to any sort of obscenity on social media. The report submitted by the panel also requested search engines like Google to block users who search for child pornography sites.

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