WhatsApp has filed a complaint against the Indian authorities to challenge specific provisions of new regulation. Messaging is concerned that it will challenge end-to-end encryption.
This is an unusual move on the part of WhatsApp, but one that indicates some concern on the part of the instant messaging service. According to Reuters information published on May 26, then confirmed by BuzzFeed, the mobile application filed a complaint in New Delhi against the Indian government to oppose the entry into force today of new local regulation.
At the root of WhatsApp’s concerns are specific steps India has taken to drive out certain online content that would constitute a problem for national security, public order, and decency – categories which, if not sufficiently defined and narrow-minded, can lead to arbitrary decisions.
In this context, India wishes to be able to find the first sender of a message on WhatsApp that would fall into one of these categories. In short, it is a question of going back to the source of the news and then of unmasking the identity of the person whose comments are in question and of initiating legal action. Criminal proceedings can be commenced against WhatsApp if the platform does not cooperate.
Except that this traceability does not work in practice, consider the platform, and, moreover, it would fundamentally call into question the very principle of the service: end-to-end encryption. This cryptographic process allows people appearing in the same discussion channel to have a very high degree of security and confidentiality. What they say to each other cannot be seen from the outside.
This technique has been enabled by default in WhatsApp since 2016. To secure its communications, WhatsApp has not designed its own cryptographic protocol but uses one developed by Signal, a foundation whose work in this area is renowned. Facebook, which has owned WhatsApp since 2014, is working to deploy this protection on Messenger and Instagram.
Traceability requires messaging services to store information that can be used to determine the content of people’s messages, breaking the same guarantees that end-to-end encryption provides. To be able to trace even a single notification, the services should outline all the letters,” warns the app, a subsidiary of Facebook.
In a page dedicated to the issue of traceability, WhatsApp develops its legal and political arguments. He warns that this jeopardizes individual rights, in particular to privacy and freedom of expression. This generates legal uncertainty about the future: what would happen if a message, lawful today, was no longer in the eyes of a future government?
There is also another reality: nothing says that traceability makes it possible to trace correctly to the trustworthy source of a message. If someone downloads an image from the net or picks up something read online, they could actually be the source of a sharing channel. But for all that, someone else could have done it long before and created a much bigger chain. Or even to have completed this image or this comment.
WhatsApp has taken this legal action based on India’s constitution, which guarantees the right to privacy. The case will have significant repercussions in India, as the service is top-rated in the country – there are almost 400 million members. Its impact on WhatsApp encryption is another, as is the integrity of exchanges on the service elsewhere in the world.