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In its opposition to the amendments to India’s IT rules, WhatsApp asserted that the regulations were introduced without prior consultation, emphasizing concerns over privacy infringement. The world’s leading instant messaging platform made its stance clear during proceedings at the Delhi High Court, stating that it would consider exiting India rather than compromising the encryption of messages and calls.

WhatsApp’s legal representation articulated that the new IT rules, if enforced, would compromise user privacy, echoing the sentiment that breaking encryption would prompt the platform’s departure from the country. Tejas Karia, representing WhatsApp, argued before the court that the rules ran counter to users’ privacy expectations and violated fundamental constitutional rights.

The legal counsel highlighted the global rarity of such regulations, underscoring the impracticality of storing vast quantities of encrypted data. Facebook and WhatsApp jointly contested the new rules in court, contending that they infringed upon the right to privacy. However, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology opposed the petition, citing concerns over national security and law enforcement.

The ministry emphasized the necessity of implementing the rules to combat the dissemination of fake messages, which could potentially incite unrest. WhatsApp had previously expressed apprehension that compliance with the regulations would compromise user privacy, particularly regarding the requirement to trace chats, which it likened to storing fingerprints of every message.

The Central government’s introduction of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021 has sparked a legal battle between tech giants and regulatory authorities. The rules mandate that social media platforms disclose the identity of the “first originator of information” upon request, raising questions about privacy and surveillance.

As the legal proceedings unfold, the outcome will likely have significant implications for digital privacy rights in India and beyond.

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