After a public outcry over the threat to privacy, the government on Tuesday withdrew the draft encryption policy which made it mandatory for storage of all messages, including social media, for 90 days.
“I personally feel that some of the expression used in the draft are giving rise to uncalled-for misgivings. Therefore, I have written to DeitY to withdraw that draft, rework it properly and thereafter put in the public domain,” Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said while addressing a press conference.
“Yesterday, it was brought to our notice that draft has been put in the public domain seeking comments. I wish to make it very clear that it is just a draft and not the view of the government. I have noted concerns expressed… by the public,” Prasad said.
The IT minister also said that the government supports the freedom of social media and it is taking necessary steps to promote it.
As per the original draft, the new encryption policy proposed that every message a user sends — be it through WhatsApp, SMS, e-mail or any such service — must be mandatorily stored in plain text format for 90 days and made available on demand to security agencies. However, the government later on exempted Web and messaging services used by masses like WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter from the proposed new encryption policy after an outcry.
The draft was formulated by an expert group set up by the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY) under Section 84A of the Information Technology Act, 2000.
Prasad, however, maintained that there’s need for an encryption policy which would apply to those who are involved in encrypting a messaging product “for a variety of reasons”.