India recently released some controversial draft legislation concerning encryption. The proposed law would require social media users to save plain text documents of their messages to share with the police. Besides being drastically improbable for users actually to follow such an intense method of record keeping, the legislation would violate the fundamental privacy of online users. Users are also extremely concerned with the implications of plain text documents that aren’t very secure.
Further clarification from an official in the Communications Ministry revealed that the committee wanted apps like WhatsApp and Viber to provide plain-text versions, but considering that these apps use encryption to hide messages, that proposal is equally as ridiculous.
A spokesman for Mr. Modi’s Bharatia Janata Party retorted “tomorrow they will start demanding that you videograph what has been going on in your bedroom for the past 90 days.”
The legislation is similar to legislation currently active in both China and Russia. Both countries are heavily censoring internet traffic, and even blocking large websites like Twitter and Facebook to maintain control over its traffic monitoring.
Thankfully, although somewhat doubtfully, the Indian government is saying that they aren’t supportive of the law either–that it was just something publicy stated, there as proposed by the Department of Electronics and Information Technology. Ravi Shankar, minister of communications and information technology, said, “I wish to make it clear that it is just a draft and not the view of the government.”
Due to harsh reception from intense criticism, the law was retracted only a few days later–but that didn’t help the embarrassment of the Indian Prime Minister’s trip to the Silicon Valley in California. Ironically, the Prime Minister is an activist of mobilized large networks.