The Government Will Soon Ask WhatsApp and Gmail To Store and Share Data
In a move that goes against all norms of public privacy and modern moral sense, the Government of India is making plans to ask intermediary services like Gmail, WhatsApp, Snapchat and even Flipkart and Amazon to not only retain sensitive and private user information but also to share with the Government as per requests raised.
This amendment will be made into the Section 67C of the Information Technology Act of India by a committee that has been working on this for a while. According to this new rule, put initially into motion in 2008, all electronic companies operating in India will require to follow the govt. rules which will spell out what type of data has to be stored, in which format, and for how long. Meaning it should be stored in a specific archaic format set by the Government in 2008.
Not only will this be an invasion of privacy, but should this data leak or get hacked, it will be a huge social, private, public and central Government security risk, also a major risk to high profile individuals and companies who use these services daily.
Using Apple’s example, the committee stated on the matter:
Even if it is for national security reasons, how much are these companies answerable to the Indian security establishment? And we do know how Apple refused to unlock the phone even for FBI.
The implementation of such services may not technically be possible in certain cases, where WhatsApp encrypts chats with 256 bit hex while Snapchat never stores informations beyond seconds. This may either lead to huge resistance of the bill or general shutdown of services used by modern India.
While the Government is still mixed on how and why the data needs to be stored, the problem for how long is what may take more of a biting, the Department of Telecommunications required data to be stored for 6 months, the Registrar of Companies mandates for one year and income-tax for seven years.
Either way, we all should be aware of the consequences of government data storage, a bill that is nearly a decade old, and policies that could send the growth trajectory of Modern India spiralling down. While national security is important, privacy and freedom of citizens is important too. At the end how much policing, is too much ?