The secretary, who was speaking during the Global FinTech Fest 2021, hosted by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), said that in a civilised society, law enforcement is a function that is entrusted by the society to a few people, to act on their behalf, to make sure that lawbreakers don’t get away with.
The government on Tuesday reiterated its position that while it respects the right to privacy, in certain cases law enforcement agencies need assistance and in such instances, technology companies need to share information. Encryption cannot be an excuse for not sharing details in such cases.
Ministry of electronics and IT (Meity) secretary Ajay Prakash Sawhney said, “While encryption is a welcome thing 99.99% of the time, 0.01% of the time when it is necessary to come to the assistance of law enforcement agencies to bring perpetrators of wrongdoing to justice, then we expect that encryption will not be held up as an excuse or as a sort of a silly excuse to deny that.”
The secretary, who was speaking during the Global FinTech Fest 2021, hosted by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), said that in a civilised society, law enforcement is a function that is entrusted by the society to a few people, to act on their behalf, to make sure that lawbreakers don’t get away with. He added that breaking down of safe encryption comes in as an excuse and it is being used to mystify digital technologies.
Sawhney said encryption is wonderful when people chat on a day-to-day basis, but asked what if something seriously wrong, or a crime, occurs, like terrorists talking to each other, and that communication resulting in something untoward happening in the middle of a city. “Then someone says no, no, no, that is encryption, you know it’s so sacrosanct. It is such a sacrosanct thing that it doesn’t matter what happens, that encryption is more important than law enforcement itself, I think I have a quarrel with that,” the secretary said.
The government has already notified new intermediary guidelines that make it mandatory for firms like WhatsApp to provide the first originator of what is deemed as mischievous messages. This issue of traceability has been a bone of contention between WhatsApp and the government. WhatsApp has even challenged the new guidelines in the Delhi High Court, particularly the clause which requires it to provide the first originator of what is deemed as mischievous messages by the government.
The new intermediary rules, which were notified on February 25, are aimed at regulating all social media intermediaries like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google, YouTube, etc, as as well as over-the-top platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and stand-alone digital media outlets. While the guidelines relating to intermediaries were already in force from earlier, through the addendum, the government has tightened some clauses such as reducing the time provided to some platforms to remove what is deemed by it as unlawful content, under Section 69A of the IT Act.