WhatsApp can trace message origin, IIT Madras professor suggests two methods

The professor suggests that the origin can be traced by embedding sender's information alongside content.

In the wake of hundreds of lynchings last year, caused due to fake news, WhatsApp was asked by the Indian government to trace the origin of such messages in order to keep the spread of fake news in check. However, the Facebook-owned platform repeatedly denied the possibility of doing that owing to the messenger being end-to-end encrypted. Now, however, an IIT Madras professor has submitted a report at the Madras High Court saying that the platform can, in fact, trace the origin of a message.

On 31 July 2019, V Kamakoti, submitted a report at the Madras High Court saying that WhatsApp can trace the origin of a message by embedding the first sender's information alongside content. This information would be visible to everyone. A copy of this report was reviewed by Economic Times.

Kamakoti suggested another way to trace the message and that is to encrypt the sender's information in the message, which can be accessed by the officials when needed. The professor is also a member of the National Security Advisory Board in the Prime Minister’s Office.

 WhatsApp can trace message origin, IIT Madras professor suggests two methods

WhatsApp says it is constantly stepping up its capabilities to keep the platform safe.

Additionally, Kamakoti also suggested that in case someone alters or makes an addition to a forwarded message then that person also becomes the originator. This addition could be in the form of text, audio, video or an attachment.

WhatsApp has repeatedly been stressing that the importance of the company’s support for encryption and how important it is for the product.

A few months ago, the Indian government also asked WhatsApp to digitally fingerprint every message sent on its platform without breaking its encryption.

Draft amendments to intermediary guidelines of the Information Technology Act released in December 2018 require all internet platforms to ensure traceability of the origin of all content shared through them.

WhatsApp currently does not store data on messages. However, if it accedes to India’s demand, it will need to redesign its entire architecture. Such a move could result in a backlash from privacy activists around the world who are worried that traceability will gag free speech on the internet, as governments could use the power to snoop on citizens.

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