After WhatsApp turned on end-to-end encryption (E2E) to secure the privacy of their one billion active users, debates over user’s privacy versus the country’s security immediately sprouted. WhatsApp’s decision on the 256-bit encryption came after the FBI-Apple battle over seeking messages from the locked iPhone of a claimed terrorist. Though encrypting messages may be a great option where hackers and the government cannot snoop on the user’s private lives, this causes a huge issue when the police have to crack into messages that are passed on using this channel to protect its citizens.
Following the enabling of WhatsApp encryption, many activists around the world claimed it as a potential threat to National security. In India, an encryption of up to 40-bit is considered legal and services that are implementing this type of encryption have to register with the government. Those who are using higher encryption are presently in the gray area, and so is the case with WhatsApp. Hence, indirectly, WhatsApp is presently illegal in India, but there are no guidelines as yet in the country which can ban them for now.
The RTI petition was filed under the registration number DOTEL/R/2016/50413. Sudhir wants a ban on WhatsApp because they have decided to encrypt all messages that get exchanged on the platform. He also said that any terrorist can safely chat on WhatsApp and make plans to harm the country and the Indian intelligence agencies would not be able to tap them to take necessary actions.
The Supreme Court will hear a petition on June 29— seeking a ban on WhatsApp on the ground that the messaging app’s E2E encryption could pose as a threat to the country’s security—as it gives terrorists a means of easy communication and that it is impossible to intercept by the government and security agencies.
Other than WhatsApp, the petition has also asked the court to take a decision on other highly encrypted messaging services such as Hike, Secure Chat, Viber and a few others. The Supreme Court will hear the petition on June 29, which will decide the fate of WhatsApp and a few other messaging platforms in India.
Will WhatsApp be banned? Should WhatsApp be banned? Come June 29, we shall hear what the Supreme Court has to dictate.