India Should Actually Ban WhatsApp

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A few weeks ago, WhatsApp introduced end-to-end encryption in its services. What it means to us users is that when you send a message, the only person who can read it is the person or group that you send that message to. No one can see inside that message. So the lewd jokes shared over groups and the mushy “mwaah” and “xoxoxo” won’t be spied upon by your oppressive governments. The messaging service, owned by Facebook, goes on to claim that even they can’t snoop into your conversations. This sounds great as long as people are nice and governments are evil. However, that’s not always the case.

Allow me to explain. Early this year, CIA helped India arrest over 20 ISIS operatives. To locate these asshats who help the terrorists, CIA and RAW intercepted their WhatsApp and Facebook messages. These arrests effectively foiled seven bomb blasts in India.

With the new encryption coming into effect, Intelligence agencies won’t be able to track suspicious users. Now, as a user, I would rather have the authorities “invade” my privacy, than some fanatics invade the country I love. Even if a single life is saved by such interception, I’m all for it. Thankfully, A Gurgaon-based RTI activist has filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking a ban on WhatsApp in India. He makes a point that he is not against the encryption. It’s just that he wants WhatsApp to comply if the government demands it to decrypt a particular message.

WhatsApp’s claim that even they can’t snoop on someone, is a ridiculous joke. Facebook spends millions of dollars to keep WhatsApp up and running. Since it does not monetise from ads, it sure has some other ways to make money. You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to realise that WhatsApp’s most valuable possession is the data it holds.

In past, BlackBerry was lawfully asked to cooperate with Indian investigation agencies. In effect, the Canadian company set up a local hub in Mumbai to aid security agencies intercept messages. The authorised agencies include Intelligence Bureau (IB), Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), Enforcement Directorate (ED), Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) and the state police. If WhatsApp fails to do the same, Indian government should actually consider a ban.

Chandrakant 'CK' Isi

Technology editor, movie buff, and wannabe space explorer.