WhatsApp’s encryption triggers legality debate

|April 8, 2016 0

BANGALORE, INDIA: WhatsApp started rolling out its end-to-end encryption feature. It has enabled a 256-bit encryption to ensure privacy of all the calls you make, and the message, photo, video, file, and voice message you send, including group chats.

The attempt to protect privacy is commendable. But, one question has been doing the rounds since the rollout of the encryption feature. Does the end-to-end encryption brings the app into conflict with the Indian law? Here are some technical details which will clear the air for the users.

As per DoT rules, ISPs and private parties can only encrypt up to 40-bit. If they want to do higher level of encryption, they have to ask for permission.

Now, technically WhatsApp cannot be scrutinized for crossing the permissible limit of encryption, as WhatsApp is an OTT player- not an ISP.

Anyone seeking permission for encryption beyond the 40-bit limit, needs to submit the decryption keys to the government.

However, WhatsApp’s co-founders Brian Acton and Jan Koum in a blog post has made the idea behind putting such encryption layer very clear: “No one can see inside that message. Not cybercriminals. Not hackers. Not oppressive regimes. Not even us.”

The Indian government has not made any comment on the announcement yet and has not also put any restriction on WhatsApp so far.

But the govt. might choose to do so anytime, as there are instances of restricting the use of private e-mails in official communication citing security risks.

It will be interesting to see if the govt. makes any exception for it, as WhatsApp is highly popular messaging app in India, not only for private chats, but for business communication also.

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