Messaging apps find another foe in India’s market regulator

May 8, 2013
May 8, 2013

Paranoid governments and mobile operators aren’t the only one that dislike messaging apps. Regulatory bodies aren’t crazy about them either. The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) is worried that attempts to pass on confidential information or manipulate markets are originating from within services like WhatsApp and Blackberry Messenger.

The regulator already analyzes data from trades for irregularities through its “integrated market surveillance system”. That gives it an idea of what stocks are being manipulated. Now it wants to expand its horizons. The Press Trust of India reports that SEBI has looked into tracking Twitter and Facebook and is grappling with messaging apps—though as yet it has no systems in place for doing either, according to Elonnai Hickok of the Center for Internet Studies in Bangalore. A SEBI spokesperson could not be reached for comment.

Even if SEBI did start following you on Twitter, it cannot snoop on your WhatsApp messages. That sort of power is the preserve of intelligence and police authorities. And there is good reason for SEBI’s restricted powers. Keeping the markets clean may be an honorable pursuit, but the regulator hasn’t always used honorable means.

India’s finance minister last year said that SEBI would be allowed to request call records, which are the data kept by operators about who called whom, for how long and from where. Such information can help investigators discover sources of leaked information. It can also be used to figure out whether traders are trying to influence other investigators. But a freedom-of-information request recently revealed that SEBI had been requesting—and receiving—such data from carriers at least since 2009, well before it was supposedly allowed to do so.

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