India’s Draconian Rules for Internet Platforms Threaten User Privacy and Undermine Encryption | WHAT REALLY HAPPENED X-Frame-Options: DENY X-Frame-Options: SAMEORIGIN

India’s Draconian Rules for Internet Platforms Threaten User Privacy and Undermine Encryption

By Katitza Rodriguez and Kurt Opsahl

The Indian government’s new Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code (“2021 Rules”) pose huge problems for free expression and Internet users’ privacy. They include dangerous requirements for platforms to identify the origins of messages and pre-screen content, which fundamentally breaks strong encryption for messaging tools. Though WhatsApp and others are challenging the rules in court, the 2021 Rules have already gone into effect.

Three UN Special Rapporteurs—the Rapporteurs for Freedom of Expression, Privacy, and Association—heard and in large part affirmed civil society’s criticism of the 2021 Rules, acknowledging that they did “not conform with international human rights norms.” Indeed, the Rapporteurs raised serious concerns that Rule 4 of the guidelines may compromise the right to privacy of every internet user, and called on the Indian government to carry out a detailed review of the Rules and to consult with all relevant stakeholders, including NGOs specializing in privacy and freedom of expression.

2021 Rules contain two provisions that are particularly pernicious: the Rule 4(4) Content Filtering Mandate and the Rule 4(2) Traceability Mandate...

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