WhatsApp threatens shutdown over encryption demands in India

The government counters that these platforms, which monetize user data, have no legal basis to claim privacy protection, with the MeitY arguing that the IT Rules are crucial for tracing misinformation and maintaining social order.


WhatsApp and Facebook are challenging India’s amended IT Rules, claiming they infringe on privacy rights and are unconstitutional. At a Delhi High Court hearing, WhatsApp argued that being forced to decrypt messages could shut down their service. A key issue is Rule 4(2), which mandates social media companies to trace the original source of messages under certain conditions. WhatsApp contends this would require them to store messages for years, a demand not made in any other country, including Brazil.

The Indian government argues that these companies, which profit from user data, don’t have a basis to claim they protect user privacy. The government insists these rules are vital for law enforcement to track false messages and uphold public order. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology supports the rules, stating they meet global standards and ensure accountability of digital platforms, keeping the internet secure and respecting citizen rights. The case has been adjourned to August 14 for further consideration.

Why does it matter?

Since adopting end-to-end encryption in 2016, WhatsApp has prioritised privacy and security. In India, where it is the leading messaging app with over 900 million users, it has become a key tool for government communications. Over the years, WhatsApp has expanded its reach to include various government bodies that use it to disseminate vital information. With such a vast user base and an important role in public communication, the outcome of this situation could have dramatic consequences for India’s informational ecosystem.