Telecommunications Bill: Govt Proposes Law To Access Encrypted Calls, Messages On WhatsApp & Similar Apps

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Telecommunications Bill: Govt Proposes Law To Access Encrypted Calls, Messages On WhatsApp & Similar Apps

The government of India has proposed a new law that would intercept encrypted messages on over-the-top media services like Whatsapp, Signal and other similar apps. If implemented, it can affect the privacy and security of encrypted messages.

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The government of India has proposed a new bill based on the privacy and security of over-the-top media service users. According to the new draft telecommunications bill uploaded late on Wednesday (September 21), the government now intends to intercept the encrypted messages and calls on WhatsApp, Signal, and other similar applications.

The users of such applications often check for the end-to-end encryption feature while installing an application, as it ensures that the messages in the conversation can't be accessed by anyone other than the sender and receiver. According to WhatsApp, it only has access to a few messages if someone reports the same or nobody can see or read them.

Proposed Bill Sidesteps User Privacy?

A new draft telecommunications bill uploaded on Wednesday wants the ability to circumvent this encryption. In the bill, telecommunication services are defined as anything to do with broadcasting, voice mail, email, videotex and audiotex services, and internet services. It also includes internet-based communication services, including over-the-top (OTT) communication services like Signal, WhatsApp, and Telegram.

The government has opened the platform for discussion on the new draft telecommunications bill, and feedback is invited from the people. Notably, if the bill is implemented as a law, the government would also have access to every video and voice calls made over WhatsApp and other similar apps.

The OTT communication service industry, which has consistently promised and prioritised users' safety and privacy, would be largely impacted. In the draft bill, the government has said, "the central or the state government may circumvent encryption in case of any public emergency or for the interest of people," meaning that the government will snoop on anyone's private conversation if the country's integrity and sovereignty are at peril, reported Hindustan Times.

If this bill becomes a law, it would be tricky for the government to ensure privacy and security for the users as it violates several privacy norms. The neighbour, China, already has a similar censorship law that helps the Chinese government access anyone's private conversation.

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