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WhatsApp’s attempt to portray new digital rules as contrary to right to privacy ‘misguided’: Centre
The government said that it respected the Right to Privacy of citizens
Hours after WhatsApp challenged the government’s new digital rules in Delhi High Court, the Centre responded to it stating that the former’s attempt to portray Intermediary Guidelines of India as contrary to the Right to Privacy is “misguided”. The government said that it respected the Right to Privacy of citizens, adding it is subject to “reasonable restrictions” and “no fundamental right is absolute”.
“Government of India respects the Right of Privacy and has no intention to violate it when WhatsApp is required to disclose the origin of a particular message,” Ministry of Electronics and IT said.
“As a significant social media intermediary, WhatsApp seeks safe harbour protection as per provisions of the IT Act. However, in a befuddling act, they seek to avoid responsibility and refuse to enact the very steps which permit them a safe harbour provision.
“WhatsApp’s attempt to portray Intermediary Guidelines of India as contrary to Right to privacy is misguided. Contrarily in India, privacy is a fundamental right subject to reasonable restrictions. Rule 4(2) (to trace first originator) is example of such a restriction,” MeitY added.
WhatsApp has filed a lawsuit in Delhi High Court challenging the government’s new digital rules saying the requirement for the company to provide access to encrypted messages will break privacy protections.
The petition, filed on Tuesday evening, seeks declaring the rule requiring the message service provider to identify the first originator of any message as a violation of privacy rights provided by the constitution.
“Requiring messages to trace chats is the equivalent of asking us to keep a fingerprint of every single message sent on WhatsApp which would break end-to-end encryption and fundamentally undermines people’s right to privacy,” the spokesperson said in a statement on Wednesday.
“We have consistently joined civil society and experts around the world in opposing requirements that would violate the privacy of our users.”
The petition came just as the new digital rules kicked in.
Social media companies previously enjoyed immunity for content posted by any third-party user on their platforms. The new rule requires them to take down content flagged by the authorities within 36 hours and set up a mechanism to respond to complaints.
Social media platforms are also required to use automated processes to take down pornography.
The new rules, announced on February 25, require large social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp to follow additional due diligence, including the appointment of a chief compliance officer, nodal contact person and resident grievance officer.
Non-compliance with the rules could take away legal protection of social media companies such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and WhatsApp for user content posted on their platforms.