WhatsApp Might Soon Be Coming Under Governmental Regulatory Framework

WhatsApp Might Soon Be Coming Under Governmental Regulatory Framework

We all like our privacy, right? Obviously, we want whatever information and messages we share with friends to remain that way – personal. And don’t you just hate it when anybody checks your phone – because it feels like a violation of personal space.

Well, a lot of that might be about to change.

When WhatsApp announced the change in its privacy policy last year, stating that the data will now be shared with their parent company Facebook, a lot of people across the globe reacted adversely. Simply because the loss of privacy was threatened.

Wanting to do something about the potential loss of control and anonymity over personal information and conversations, Karmanya Singh Sareen and Shreya Sethi filed a petition against WhatsApp decision to change it’s privacy policy, in 2016.
They had said in their petition:
It is also the responsibility of the State to guarantee and ensure the protection of the personal and private data and information of these millions of citizens, when they use such modes of communications to engage in conversations and exchange private and confidential data and information.”

The Department of Telecom argued that Over-The-Top services such as Facebook, WeChat, Skype, WhatApp, Viber etc. are not under any kind of regulatory framework, even though they use telecom service providers’ network to access their customers.
They are not subject to the Telegraph Act, nor are they obligated to registration or licensing with DoT.
Licensed operators, on the other hand, operate under proper monitoring and security regulations. They also have to pay a license fee (which OTT services are exempted from).

In order to plug that gap, the DoT has informed the Supreme Court that the TRAI will be coming out with a new regulatory mechanism for online data security by Diwali this year.

WhatsApp’s representatives KK Venugopal and Kapil Sibal argue that all WhatsApp messages are protected by end-to-end encryption – which prevents any third party from reading chats and their content, So, there is no breach of privacy.

The Supreme Court bench has passed on the matter to a Constitutional Bench and fixed April 18 as the hearing date. But a request was made to delay the hearing by a couple months as there may be new privacy laws by then.

Though endless arguments can be made from both sides, it is an important issue and needs to be dealt with as soon as possible. Phat said, privacy is not a matter to be taken lightly. As we step forward in trying to make a Digital India, security issues need to be addressed so that we can all feel safe while using OTT services.


Also published on Medium.