WhatsApp running conspiracy against Modi government: sources

S Ronendra Singh New Delhi | Updated on November 01, 2019 Published on November 01, 2019

It is bound tell suspected incidents immediately, but did not

The government has expressed its concerns over WhatsApp not disclosing Pegasus hacking on time and said that the Facebook-owned firm is running a ‘conspiracy’ against the Narendra Modi-led government.

Sources in the government told BusinessLine that it is a desperate effort by WhatsApp to curb growing international opinion against their pronounced position on traceability, which the Indian government also has been asking them to provide over the last one year.

But, India stands committed on its stance that information about originating point of information, which lead to social unrest, has to be disclosed as and when sought by law enforcing authorities.

“I suspect this could be a WhatsApp conspiracy (against the government) is bound to tell us immediately as and when such incident happen, just like in the case of Cambridge Analytica by Facebook. They (WhatsApp) never told us there are 1,400 people and some Indians are also there, etc...we got to know from the media reports,” a senior government official said on condition of anonymity.

The official said neither MeitY nor the Home Ministry was informed by WhatsApp on any such incident till now. Following the disclosure by WhatsApp, the government had asked the company to explain the matter and list out the measures that have been taken by it to safeguard the privacy of millions of Indians. It has been asked to submit its response by Monday (November 4).

The official also said that those people’s name which have come in the list and were informed about the incident, they can also go to the Court on not protecting their privacy.

Across the world all the government authorities have been engaging with WhatsApp requesting them that in certain cases – to investigate crime, to avoid riots, etc-- there is a need in bringing out something called traceability. But, this was treated by WhatsApp that ‘government is asking to break encryption’.

“We never asked for encryption and asked only for traceability so that a culprit can be traced for avoiding riots or terrorist activities or mob lynching. One year we have been telling this to them and they have been saying in a lot of meetings here also that something like that can’t be done. But, today see what they have come out with…,” the official said.

The official informed that the Indian government’s demand is ‘very simple as compared to that of the US, UK and Australia’. “They have told WhatsApp they should not have a platform without backdoors...we are not asking for a backdoor, but for investigation!,” the official added.

Another functionary in the government said that as of now the government has only asked WhatsApp to respond to the media reports saying some people’s accounts were been tracked.

“The numbers could be anything, but we are concerned because names of some Indians came in to the list. The rules have to be very clear to them (WhatsApp)...we know these occasional disturbing movements keep on happening in the digital world, but here they are saying some kind of organised snooping is happening, which is not acceptable,” the person said.

Facebook-owned WhatsApp has over 1.5 billion users globally, of which India alone accounts for around 400 million and in the past too, WhatsApp has drawn flak from the Indian government on the platform being misused for spreading misinformation that led to incidents of mob lynching.

Meanwhile, in its response to queries, WhatsApp said that it agrees with the government’s ‘strong statement about the need to safeguard the privacy of all Indian citizens’. “That is why we’ve taken this strong action to hold cyber attackers accountable and why WhatsApp is committed to the protection of all user messages through the product we provide,” a spokesperson at the company said.

Published on November 01, 2019
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