Info-tech

Are Apple, Telegram and Signal fully compliant with new IT rules?

Debangana Ghosh Mumbai | Updated on June 29, 2021

There is uncertainty on compliance, say experts

While there is much focus on WhatsApp’s stand on not complying with the new IT rules that require tracing the originator of messages, there is still uncertainty on compliance by other messaging platforms including Apple’s iMessage, Telegram and Signal.

While Apple did not respond to BusinessLine’s queries, an industry source said that iMessage may not fall under the purview of the new IT rules. That’s because the requirement of tracing the originator of messages is applicable only on platforms that have minimum 5 million users. Two industry sources confirmed that iMessage doesn’t have five million users in India.

According to a Counterpoint Research report, Apple sold 3.2 million iPhone devices in 2020 alone. This calculation doesn’t include macbook, iMac, iPad and other products of the company.

One of the above-mentioned sources told BusinessLine that iMessage is an optional service and not every Apple customer would be using it.

Optional service

“Not every Apple device user uses iMessage. It’s an optional service built around texting and not a default setting. iMessage works on data and requires both sender and the receiver to use the app. So if a message is sent through iMessage but the receiver is not using the platform, it will get delivered as a regular text message. Again, assuming your internet connectivity is off and you are using iMessage, the message will still go as a text,” the source said.

Telegram and Signal too may not have complied with all the rules, sources said.

Though Telegram had announced Abhimanyu Yadav as its grievance officer in mid-June, Signal is yet to do so. Both Telegram and Signal don’t have offices in India.

“Signal, Telegram and even Whatsapp may not have complied with all provisions of the IT Rules, especially the traceability clause. Also, for Telegram end-to-end encryption is not enabled by default and you have to manually enable secret chats,” Prasanth Sugathan, legal director, SFLC.in, told this newspaper.

Favouring privacy

He added, “Signal is managed by a non-profit organisation with around 20 employees worldwide and to my best knowledge they have not complied with the new Rules, including the provisions for resident officers, local office and traceability. They have a strong stance favouring privacy and it is doubtful whether they will make exception for just one country.”

Both the industry sources added that the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology had not asked these companies to disclose exact number of userbase. They had to only submit details of compliance. Telegram and Signal did not respond to e-mail queries sent by BusinessLine.

For now, WhatsApp too has appointed Paresh B Lal as its grievance officer, but hasn’t fully complied with the IT Rules. The hearing for its case related to traceability of messages will happen at the Delhi High Court once its vacation period is over.

Published on June 28, 2021

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