'Traceability on digital platforms may impact privacy'

Traceability on digital platforms may impact users' security, privacy: Internet Society

The government has asked social media and mobile messaging platforms to trace senders of messages who intend to disturb law and order in the country

Representative image. Credit: iStock.

The debate around tracing the original creator of message on digital platforms is likely to continue in India and requirements to comply with the proposed idea may adversely impact user's security and privacy, according to a whitepaper by US-based non-profit organisation Internet Society.

The Internet Society in its recently released whitepaper on traceability and cybersecurity said that the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (Meity) has proposed amendments in late 2018 to the Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules under the Information Technology Act, which would make the online platform or provider liable for content posted by their users, if traceability is not provided.

The government has asked social media and mobile messaging platforms to trace senders of messages who intend to disturb law and order in the country. The norms and methodology to trace senders of offensive messages is under works.

"Traceability will likely continue to be a prominent issue in the debate in India around rules for digital platforms and communications service providers. However, there are credible concerns around the security, privacy and effectiveness of the two methods most often proposed to enable traceability, the use of digital signatures and the use of metadata," the whitepaper said.

Internet Society said that proposals to use digital signatures and the use of metadata (any data from digital information source) have been suggested in India which may force digital platforms to enable access to the contents of their users'.

"To comply with traceability requirements, communications service providers would be forced to access the contents of users' communications, greatly diminishing the security and privacy of a system for all users and putting national security at greater risk," the whitepaper said.

The Supreme Court has upheld the right to privacy as a fundamental right but with certain exemptions.

Internet Society in Asia Pacific senior policy advisor Noelle de Guzman told PTI that the Indian government is right to be thinking about how to keep their citizens in check and protected – both online and in real life.

"However, terrorism and misinformation are not an 'Internet' challenge, but rather a broader societal one involving human behavior. Solving this requires a much bigger conversation that should involve the technology community to make sure strong cybersecurity practices are part of the solution," she said.

The Internet Society whitepaper said that making sure Internet services can be trusted is key to further expanding the Internet’s utility in India, and both encryption and the confidentiality it guarantees underpins that trust.

"Traceability proposals would break this trust and be a big step back from the digital progress India has already achieved," the whitepaper said.