WhatsApp, Signal, other messaging apps to come under legal framework soon

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WhatsApp, Signal and other interception of over-the-top communication services will soon come under a legal framework, the Centre said citing a new draft telecommunications bill. In case, the bill is implemented in its current form, it will have significant ramifications for the industry that is based on the privacy and security of encrypted messages.

Telecommunication services means the service of any description (including broadcasting services, electronic mail, voice mail, voice, video and data communication services, audiotex services, videotex services, fixed and mobile services, internet and broadband services, satellite-based communication services, the bill defines

It further adds, internet-based communication services, in-flight and maritime connectivity services, interpersonal communications services, machine to machine communication services, over-the-top (OTT) communication services) which is made available to users by telecommunication, a report by HT cited

Other services can be added to it if the government may notify to be telecommunication services. Centre has also sought public opinion on the same.

The interception will also cover voice and video calls made over such applications.

Under section 24 of the draft, the central and state government, or any officer specially authorised in this behalf by the central or a state government can “on the occurrence of any public emergency or in the interest of the public safety” — if it is satisfied that it is necessary or expedient to do so, in the interest of the sovereignty, integrity or security of India, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, or preventing incitement to an offence, for reasons to be recorded in writing, by order — direct that any message or class of messages, to or from any person or class of persons received by any telecommunication services… shall not be transmitted, or shall be intercepted or detained or disclosed to the officer mentioned in such order.

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