Impossible to track sender of message due to encryption: WhatsApp tells Madras High Court

Except for WhatsApp all social media giants open to share data with government

WhatsApp has expressed its inability to the Madras High Court regarding sharing users’ communication with law enforcement agencies citing its end-to-end encryption. The cross-platform messaging service was the only social media company out of Facebook, Google, YouTube and Twitter that informed the court of the impossibility to track down the original sender of a message during the hearing of a case about the assistance of social media companies to fight cybercrime.

Submitting before a Bench of Justices S Manikumar and Subramonium Prasad, WhatsApp’s counsel Arvind P Datar said, “Wherever disclosure/requests were made, WhatsApp has provided valid information to law enforcement agencies. WhatsApp is an end-to-end encrypted information and it mandates privacy. Besides, WhatsApp doesn’t store the record of any user.”

Impossible to track sender of message due to encryption: WhatsApp tells Madras High Court

A logo of WhatsApp is pictured on a T-shirt worn by a WhatsApp-representative. Reuters

The Bench had asked whether it was possible to trace the original sender of a message that seeks to spread misinformation. “Whenever requests are made under Section 91 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, the following information would be furnished such as Basic Subscriber Information, including phone number, name, device info, App version, start date/time, connection status, last connection date/time/IP, email address and web client data to law enforcement agencies,” Datar further submitted. WhatsApp’s other legal counsel and senior lawyer Kapil Sibal too said that his client doesn’t have any mechanism to identify the originator of information and also doesn’t maintain voice call logs.

WhatsApp is yet to respond to Firstpost’s questions on its submission before the court, which has scheduled the next hearing on 27 June.

On the other hand, PS Raman, the counsel for Google and YouTube, submitted that both the social media giants “would give 100 percent cooperation to law enforcement agencies for investigation of crimes”.

Twitter’s counsel R Murari too said that law enforcement agencies can obtain information from the social media company’s headquarters in Dublin, Ireland. He also shared the coordinates of Twitter’s grievance officer.

Facebook’s counsel Sathish Parasaran too assured of fullest cooperation to law enforcement agencies. Facebook, Parasaran said, can provide two basic pieces of information such as email ID/phone number which has been used to create an account. A dedicated portal has been created for law enforcement agencies to access all information, he added.

E. Manoharan, the additional government pleader, stressed the need for the appointment of a nodal officer by all social media companies in the country. “A nodal officer should be appointed by all social media companies that are operating in India in accordance with the Information Technology Rules.”

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