The Union government told the Delhi High Court that social media platforms like WhatsApp and Facebook that monetized the user's personal information for their commercial interests are not legally entitled to claim 'protected privacy'. The Centre further said that the instant messaging platform needed to create a mechanism to identify the origin of unlawful information and originator without compromising on their policy of end-to-end encryption. From the Centre's end, the statement was made as a reply filed as a response to WhatsApp's petition challenging the new IT rules that required enabling the traceability of online messages.
'Company Is A Foreign Entity'
In the statement, the government also mentioned that the petition filed by the instant messaging platform was not maintainable since the company is a foreign entity. Therefore, it could not claim the rights under Article 21, including the right to privacy. According to The Indian Express, the Ministry of Electronics and IT told the Court, "The IT Rules are framed based on numerous parliamentary and judiciary recommendations which sought to protect the users against child sex abuse material, fake news and other harmful online content which was considered to be beyond the bounds of free speech".
Could Hinder Freedom Of Speech And Expression
Further, the government also mentioned that Rule 4(2) neither mandated WhatsApp's encryption nor did the state seek to do so. However, the company's assertion that there exists a difficulty in changing the architecture could not be a valid ground for judicial review. The Ministry's reply read that the government expected the platform to either prevent illegal online content on its own or assist law enforcement agencies in identifying the originators of unlawful content.
Facebook-owned WhatsApp said in its petition that its platforms could put journalists and activists at the risk of retaliation in India and infringe upon the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression.