WhatsApp has sued the Indian government in a bid to block new rules it says would lead to “mass surveillance” by forcing social media platforms to hand over private information about their users.
The company owned by Facebook, confirmed Wednesday, May 26, that the lawsuit has has been filed with the Delhi High Court.
The lawsuit is an attempt to stop strict rules that are supposed to take effect Wednesday in India.
The new rules demand that social media companies create special roles in India to keep them in compliance with local law, and to stay in contact with law enforcement 24/7.
New rules also require that social media companies remove posts that feature “full or partial nudity.”
However, WhatsApp’s disagreement with India is the rule that would require companies to trace the “first originator” of problematic messages or posts that go viral if asked by authorities, a demand that would effectively end any guarantee of user privacy by requiring the Whatsapp to keep track of every message.
“Requiring messaging apps to ‘trace’ chats is the equivalent of asking us to keep a fingerprint of every single message sent on WhatsApp, which would break end-to-end encryption and fundamentally undermines people’s right to privacy,” a company spokesperson said in a statement to CNN Business.
“We have consistently joined civil society and experts around the world in opposing requirements that would violate the privacy of our users. ”
WhatsApp has 400 million users in India, its biggest market and deployed end-to-end encryption in 2016 so that calls, messages, photos, videos and voice notes are only shared with the intended recipient and no one else including WhatsApp.
But if the new rules are to go ahead, WhatsApp would have to keep giant databases of every message, the company said.
A government “that chooses to mandate traceability is effectively mandating a new form of mass surveillance,” WhatsApp wrote in a blog post about why it opposes the practice.
“Traceability forces private companies to turn over the names of people who shared something even if they did not create it, shared it out of concern, or sent it to check its accuracy.”
The new regulations set to kick off Wednesday were announced in February just weeks after the government attempted to pressure Twitter (TWTR) to take down accounts it deemed incendiary.