As part of the upcoming telecom bill, the government has proposed a law that will enable it to gain access to encrypted messages on various applications like WhatsApp and Signal. By doing so the feature of end-to-end encryption which allows only the sender and receiver to see the conversation will be compromised.
As presented in the draft, telecom service includes broadcasting services, electronic mail, voice mail, voice, video, and data communication services along with routine satellite-based communication services and after the bill’s clearance, the government will be able to intercept all the data accessible through these mediums.
Although the officials have sought public feedback on the draft as the circumvention will also cover voice and video calls made over such apps, also any other service can be added by the central government after notifying the telecommunication services if the bill is passed in its present form.
Section 24 of the draft notes that “on the occurrence of any public emergency or in the interest of the public safety and if India’s sovereignty and integrity require the government to snoop on your private conversations, the government may do that”. However, the details shall not be transmitted or shall be intercepted or detained, or disclosed to the officer mentioned in such order.
The bill was tabled as a consolidation of the Indian Telegraph Act (1885), the Wireless Telegraphy Act (1933), and the Telegraph Wires Act (1950). It mentions that the existing regulatory framework for the telecommunication sector is based on the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, and since the telecommunication sector has evolved manifolds since the era of the telegraph which was shut in 2013 the presence of such a law is a necessity stating that India requires a legal framework pertaining to that of the 21st century.