WhatsApp Threatens to Leave Country if Forced to Break Encryption

WhatsApp has informed the Delhi High Court that it would not continue its services if compelled to break message encryption. This statement comes amidst a legal challenge against the amended IT rules by WhatsApp and its parent company, Meta. Rule 4(2) of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, mandates social media intermediaries to enable the identification of the first originator of information upon judicial order. 

Advocate Tejas Karia, representing WhatsApp, emphasized the platform’s commitment to user privacy and encryption. He argued against the rule, highlighting its potential infringement on privacy rights and the unprecedented burden of storing and decrypting millions of messages for years. The High Court is adjourned until August 14 to address these concerns, seeking a balance between privacy and law enforcement needs.

Earlier, the Centre told the court that WhatsApp and Facebook monetise users’ information for commercial purposes and are not legally entitled to claim that it protects privacy. The Centre also said regulators of various countries hold that Facebook should be made accountable. The centre’s counsel Kirtiman Singh contended that people know the things that can happen on social media and the idea behind the rule is to trace the originator of the message. He said there has to be some mechanism to trace messages and underlined that WhatsApp has faced some difficult questions before the US Congress. The Court called for a balance to be struck and adjourned the matter to August 14. It said these two matters will be heard with a batch of cases that were transferred to the High Court by the Supreme Court.