GLITCHES

After BlackBerry and Google, it may now be WhatsApp’s turn to annoy the Indian government

Quartz india
Quartz india

Leading mobile messaging app, WhatsApp yesterday (April 5) said it has encrypted all chats and calls on its platform across the world. The Facebook-owned company will no longer be able to read the messages or watch the video calls by its users even if it was ordered to do so by a court or government.

The move may have made the world’s most popular messaging app illegal in India, according to India Today’s website. A 2007 rule issued by the Indian government says that private companies cannot use encryption higher than 40 bits without permission from the government. WhatsApp’s encryption is considerably higher at 256 bits.

The Indian government has not commented on WhatsApp’s recent move.

If the Facebook-owned app does run into trouble in India, it would not be the first technology company to do so. The Indian government has a history of bans and battles with global technology companies. Here are some big technology firms that ran into trouble in India over the last few years:

BlackBerry: In 2010, the Indian government threatened to ban services of Canadian phone maker BlackBerry over security issues. The government demanded that Research In Motion, BlackBerry’s maker, set up local data servers to minimise security breaches. At the time, some countries had banned BlackBerry over security risks and others were threatening to do so.

After several rounds of discussions, BlackBerry in 2012 set up data centers in India’s financial capital, Mumbai, and got a green light from the government.

Google & Yahoo: In February 2015, the Indian government banned use of private email networks like Google’s Gmail and Yahoo for official work. The Narendra Modi government told bureaucrats via two notices that it would monitor their online activity, block content that may affect productivity, and reserve the right to delete emails or internet history if needed.

The government took such steps over its long-standing concerns about servers of Gmail and Yahoo being located in foreign countries, which it saw as a potential security threat.

Github: In December 2014, the Indian government banned Github, a platform that software writers use for sharing and working on open-source code, because it was carrying “anti-India” content from ISIL. The ban had been implemented on the advice of India’s anti-terrorism squad. It was lifted within a week after Github agreed to remove objectionable content and cooperate with an investigation.

Chinese smartphones: In 2014, the Indian Air Force had issued an advisory asking its staff and their families not to use Chinese smartphones, as the agency believed the devices were being used to spy on India. The Indian Air Force said these devices were sending data to remote servers located in China.

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