Govt Reaffirms Commitment To User’s Right To Privacy, Criticizes WhatsApp’s Defiance And Double Standards

by Swarajya Staff - May 26, 2021 12:47 PM
Govt Reaffirms Commitment To User’s Right To Privacy, Criticizes WhatsApp’s Defiance And Double StandardsWhatsApp (Carl Court via Getty Images)

Reaffirming the Indian government’s commitment to uphold the right to privacy, the Ministry of Electronics and IT stated that it has no intention to violate it when WhatsApp is required to disclose the origin of a particular message.

“The Government of India is committed to ensure the Right of Privacy to all its citizens but at the same time it is also the responsibility of the government to maintain law and order and ensure national security,” Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said.

“None of the measures proposed by India will impact the normal functioning of WhatsApp in any manner whatsoever and for the common users, there will be no impact,” the minister added.

On the requirement to disclose the origin of a particular message, the ministry stated that such requirements are only in case when the message is required for prevention, investigation or punishment of very serious offences related to the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, or public order, or of incitement to an offence relating to the above or in relation with rape, sexually explicit material or child sexual abuse material.

“As per all established judicial dictum, no fundamental right, including the Right to Privacy, is absolute and it is subject to reasonable restrictions. The requirements in the intermediary guidelines pertaining to the first originator of information are an example of such a reasonable restriction,” the ministry said.

About WhatsApp's statement that privacy of users is paramount to the company, the ministry stated that “At one end, WhatsApp seeks to mandate a privacy policy wherein it will share the data of all its users with its parent company, Facebook, for marketing and advertising purposes. On the other hand, WhatsApp makes every effort to refuse the enactment of the Intermediary Guidelines which are necessary to uphold law and order and curb the menace of fake news.”

Stating that what India is asking for is significantly much less than what some of the other countries have demanded, the ministry said the governments of the United Kingdom, United States, Australia, New Zealand and Canada issued a communique, concluding that: “tech companies should include mechanisms in the design of their encrypted products and services whereby governments, acting with appropriate legal authority, can gain access to data in a readable and usable format.”

“Brazilian law enforcement is looking for WhatsApp to provide suspects' IP addresses, customer information, geo-location data and physical messages,” it added.

The government has issued this statement after Facebook-owned WhatsApp has sued the Indian government, saying that user privacy is in its DNA and the company will not share the information related to the "first originator of information" with any government including India.

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