Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) has pleaded with the Madras High Court to exercise caution while making any proposal to change the design of encrypted platforms such as WhatsApp to check spreading rumours “as such hyper-factual, expert determination would require a deliberative policy formation process”. “The HC may avoid venturing into such a policy thicket given that recommending & enforcing changes to platform design would require extensive consultation with experts & other stakeholders. These functions are more suited for a regulatory or Govt. authority. Such decisions by Govt. authorities may also be subject to further judicial review,” the foundation affidavit said.
The IFF, which defends online freedom, privacy & innovation in India, was opposing a suggestion by IIT-M professor V Kamakoti wherein the original sender of a WhatsApp message can be traced by changing the product design of the platform to include the phone number of the ‘originator’ whenever a message is forwarded.
The foundation argued for less restrictive alternatives. To substantiate its contentions, IFF also obtained an expert opinion from IIT Bombay’s Manoj Prabhakaran, a specialist in cryptography, who said Kamakoti’s proposal was vulnerable to falsification of originator information.
The issue pertains to a PIL moved by Antony Clement Rubin seeking to link Aadhaardata with social media accounts for easy identification of cybercrime offenders. While the plea was pending before a division bench of Justice S Manikumar & Justice Subramonium Prasad, Facebook moved the Supreme Court for transfer of all such pleas pending before various HC to the SC. Admitting Facebook’s plea, the SC had ordered notices to the state Govt.
When the PIL came up for hearing before the Madras HC on Aug 21, the division bench simply adjourned the hearing, but said it was more concerned about improving coordination between law enforcement agencies & social media firms in tackling cybercrime.