Traceability Provision of IT Rules 2021

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Traceability Provision of IT Rules 2021

Recently, a petition has been filed by the messaging platform WhatsApp in the Delhi High Court to challenge the Traceability provision contained in the new IT Rules, 2021.

Key Points

  • The traceability provision requires social media platforms to essentially identify the first originator of information in India on a government or court order.
  • If social media platforms and digital content media outlets fail to comply with the new rules, then compensation to social media intermediaries will be charged under Section 79.

WhatsApp’s arguments against this traceability provision of IT rules:

  • First, the traceability provision forces WhatsApp to break end-to-end encryption on its messaging service. End-to-end encryption ensures that no person other than the sender and recipient can read the sent message. It also includes WhatsApp.
  • Secondly, this section also violates the fundamental rights of crores of citizens for privacy and freedom of expression. Since users will not be able to communicate privately and securely.
  • WhatsApp cited the 2017 Justice KS Puttaswamy vs. Union of India case, arguing that the traceability provision is unconstitutional and against the fundamental right to privacy of the people.

Section 79 of the Information Technology Act:

  • It provides that no intermediary shall be held legally or otherwise liable for information, communication or data links of any third party available or hosted on its platform.
  • The Act states that, this protection shall apply if the said arbitrator does not in any way initiate the transmission of the message in question, does not modify any information contained in the broadcast or selects the receiver of the transmitted message.
  • This shall not be approved if the arbitrator does not disable immediate access to the material in question, despite being reported or notified by the government or its agencies.

Conflict in end-to-end encryption and Traceability

  • End-to-end encryption was designed to help ensure that no one, other than the person / group you are talking to, could know that you sent a particular message. Whereas traceability is the exact opposite of the ability to detect by whom, what message is sent to anyone.
  • Traceability would force private companies to collect information on billions of messages per day. This ability is not a smooth work on the basis of growth. This would require a platform that would be able to collect more data for the purpose of handing these information over to law enforcement agencies only.

Source – The Hindu

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