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Right to Privacy is not Absolute, Delhi High Court to WhatsApp Threat to Leave India

WhatsApp warns Delhi HC of potential India exit if encryption compromised

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Staff Writer, TLR

Published on April 27, 2024, 12:16:00

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whatsapp, delhi high court, ban whatsapp in india

WhatsApp told the Delhi High Court that forcing them to break message encryption would mean the end of the platform in India. The company argues that its end-to-end encryption protects user privacy and cannot be compromised. India is one of the largest markets for Facebook-owned messaging app WhatsApp. The app has over 900 million users in India.

The Delhi High Court is currently hearing a challenge by WhatsApp and Meta (formerly Facebook) against a new Indian law that requires social media platforms to identify the originators of messages upon court order.

WhatsApp argues that complying with this law would undermine their encryption and violate user privacy. “As a platform, we are saying, if we are told to break encryption, then WhatsApp goes,” stated Tejas Karia, lawyer for WhatsApp.

The messaging platform emphasises that user privacy is a core value and that end-to-end encryption is essential for maintaining it. Users trust WhatsApp because their messages remain confidential and unreadable by anyone except the sender and receiver.

The Indian government, however, argues that tracing message originators is crucial for tackling harmful content and maintaining online safety. They believe social media platforms have a responsibility to help identify those who spread misinformation or incite violence.

“The idea behind the guidelines was to trace the originator of the messages,” said Kirtiman Singh, representing the central government. He added that some mechanism for tracing messages is necessary, especially considering the challenges WhatsApp has faced in the US Congress.

The Delhi High Court acknowledged the complexity of the situation. It observed that "privacy rights were not absolute" and “somewhere balance has to be done”, the HC observed.
The court has postponed the case for further hearing later in August 2024.

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