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Traceability Provision in New IT Rules

Traceability Provision


  • In 2021, the Information Technology Rules, which include guidelines for intermediaries and a code of ethics for digital media, became effective.
  • WhatsApp, the popular social messaging platform, has taken the matter to the Delhi High Court, expressing concerns about the new rules, particularly the provision related to traceability.

What is Traceability Provision?

  • Social media platforms need to find out who first shared certain information if a court asks them to.
  • This rule applies to big social media platforms with more than 50 lakh (5 million) registered users.

Why does the Government want to invoke Traceability Provision?

  • The government will only use the provision as a last resort in special situations.
  • This includes dealing with issues like protecting the sovereignty and integrity of India, addressing child sexual abuse material, and other similar offenses.
  • The government claims that using this provision aligns with the Puttaswamy judgment.
  • According to the Puttaswamy judgment, any restriction on the right to privacy must meet certain criteria. It should be necessary, proportionate, and include safeguards to prevent misuse.

Concerns Associated with Traceability Provision

Privacy Threat: WhatsApp may have to compromise its end-to-end encryption service, allowing messages to be read by more than just the sender and receiver. This move could seriously infringe on user privacy.

Existing Access Powers: The government already has the authority to access encrypted data through Section 69(3) of the IT Act.

Surveillance Rules: According to Rules 17 and 13 of the 2009 Surveillance Rules, intermediaries must assist in decryption when they have the technical capability and when law enforcement has no other options.

Lack of Judicial Oversight: The new rules lack independent or judicial oversight. This means the government could demand a user’s identity without stringent checks, potentially jeopardizing the anonymity of whistleblowers and journalistic sources.

The Government should take another look at its stance on making intermediaries traceable. It’s time to update the IT Act of 2000 to meet global standards and finally pass the long-awaited Data Protection Bill.

Read Also: Internet Shutdowns in India

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