Government exempts social media apps from encryption policy

New Delhi (PTI): The government has exempted Web and messaging services used by masses like WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter from the proposed new encryption policy which has raised privacy concerns.

In an addendum to the draft policy, the Department of Electronics and IT said it has exempted “the mass use encryption product, which is currently being used in Web application, social media sites and social media applications such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter etc”.

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Generally, all modern messaging services like WhatsApp, Viber, Line, Google Chat, Yahoo Messenger etc come with a high level of encryption and many a time, security agencies find it hard to intercept these messages.

As per the original draft, the new encryption policy proposes that every message a user sends — be it through WhatsApp, SMS, e-mail or any such service — must be mandatorily stored in plain text format for 90 days and made available on demand to security agencies.

The draft proposes legal action that could also entail imprisonment for failure to store and produce on demand the encrypted message sent from any mobile device or computer.

The draft, issued by the Department of Electronics and Information Technology, would apply to everyone, including government departments, academic institutions, citizens and for all kinds of communications — be it official or personal.

An official spokesperson clarified that the proposal may not impact the common man and later, the government has issued a clarification. The new addendum or clarification has also exempted certain encryption products from being used in Internet banking and payment gateways as directed by the Reserve Bank of India and e-commerce and password-based transactions.

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