WhatsApp May Exit India If Forced to Break End-to-End Encryption


  • In response to the government asking WhatsApp to trace messages and keep track of the original senders, the company said it would exit India if forced to break encryption.
  • India’s Central government feels that it’s important to regulate such platforms, as they can incite communal violence.
  • The next hearing has been set for August 14, 2024.

WhatsApp May Exit India If Forced To Break End-to-End Encryption 

In response to a 2021 rule, WhatsApp informed the Delhi High Court today that the app will shut down its services in India if it’s forced to break end-to-end encryption.

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The information was passed on by advocate Tejas Karia, who is representing the company. He added that breaking encryption goes against WhatsApp’s core values i.e. to create a safe and private interactive platform for its users.

The Rule That Led to This Decision & WhatsApp’s Objections

The statement by WhatsApp that it will leave India was made in response to the 2021 Information Technology Rules for social media intermediaries that require social media companies to keep a record of chats and be able to identify the first sender of a message if needed.

As a result, WhatsApp and its parent company Meta both challenged this decision which led to a hearing on Thursday where Karia made the above-mentioned remark on behalf of the company.

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If WhatsApp complies with the requests, here’s what it can lead to:

  • Every message in the chain will have to be decrypted in order to find the origin.
  • Millions of messages will have to be stored for years.
  • None of the users will ever be able to privately chat with their contacts.
  • The move will also violate many fundamental rights of the citizens under Articles 14, 19, and 21 of the Constitution of India.

When asked about whether such laws exist in other countries by the Bench, Karia responded “There is no such rule anywhere else in the world. Not even in Brazil.”

Read more: Brazilian court opens inquiry against Elon Musk for “obstructing justice” after he decided to lift the bans on certain X accounts.

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What Happens Now?

Although WhatsApp raises some serious concerns, the court observed that the right to privacy is not absolute and needs to be balanced.

The lawyer representing the Centre, Kirtiman Singh, added that when it comes to the greater good of society, a rule like this is much more important.

After all, there should be a measure to curb unwanted messages, especially those that can lead to severe consequences such as communal violence.

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Another obstacle for WhatsApp and its petition against the newly amended IT rules is The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.

It submitted an affidavit saying that while WhatsApp is making its case on people’s fundamental rights, it has already violated them by denying dispute resolution rights in the country. This doesn’t look good for WhatsApp.

Also: WhatsApp faces backlash for reducing minimum age from 16 to 13 in the UK and EU.

Coming back to the India story, no concrete decision has been made till now. The Delhi High Court has scheduled the next date of hearing on August 14.

Meanwhile, WhatsApp has assured that although protecting user privacy is its number one goal, it will continue to collaborate with the government of India to arrive at a solution that protects people’s privacy while allowing the company to respond to valid information requests from the authorities.

While the Western media is already labeling India as a ‘flawed democracy,’ this incident will only add to their arguments.

Interestingly, this isn’t the only petition against the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.

Several petitions were pending across different high courts in Karnataka, Calcutta, Madras, Kerala, and Bombay. In March 2022, the Supreme Court transferred all of these petitions to the Delhi High Court.

Telecommunication Bill 2023

The Telecommunication Bill passed by the Indian parliament in 2023 also provides similar provisions for message interception. According to the bill, certain messages between two or more people can be “intercepted, monitored, or blocked on certain grounds.

These grounds include:

  • Public order
  • Prevention of incitement of violence
  • To maintain the security of the state

In case of a public emergency, the government may also take possession of the telecom provider’s services, infrastructure, and network. Providers that don’t comply with the new rules will be suspended.

The Bottom Line

The issue at hand is a very sensitive one. Plus, given that WhatsApp has over 700 million users in India, it’s undoubtedly in a difficult situation. In fact, the stakes are high for both parties.

For WhatsApp, it’s about compromising the privacy of 700 million people or missing out on its biggest market (the second is Brazil, which is approximately five times smaller than WhatsApp’s India market). And for the regulators, it’s about protecting the Indian citizens from false news and propaganda.

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