Indian Government Agencies Demand Access To WhatsApp Messaging Groups

from the we-can't-have-people-bad-mouthing-the-government-and-getting-away-with-it dept

Here comes the inevitable government backlash against WhatsApp rolling out end-to-end encryption for one billion users worldwide: if governments can no longer demand access to communications, the next best thing is to demand access to WhatsApp users.

According to India resident Prasanto K. Roy, local governments are demanding that administrators of WhatsApp groups (the latest beneficiaries of the encryption rollout) register with the local magistrate, and will apparently hold them accountable for any "irresponsible remarks" or "untoward actions" by members of the group.


The government's unsubtle man-in-the-middle approach to accessing WhatsApp communications also involves placing a literal government man in the middle, according to the Times of India.
The spokesperson also said that a government representative might also have to be added to the WhatsApp group as an admin. "If any government admin is present in a WhatsApp group, it will immediately prevent any sort of rumour-mongering," he said.
Whenever a government agency develops an overweening urge to curb "rumor-mongering," one can be sure that particular government is fucking something up somewhere. And, indeed, that is the case here.
The government had imposed a blackout on mobile internet in the troubled area after clashes between security forces and protestors claimed the lives of five people. The area had seen protests after the alleged molestation of a teenager by security personnel. The mobile internet blackout had been aimed at curbing the spread of potentially inflammatory messages that could spark further tension in the area.
It would seem to me the tension was created by the alleged molestation, the government's lack of interest in investigating/punishing the wrongdoer and the killing of five people. The government appears to be more interested in saving itself from its constituency, so the obvious move is to shut down any communication platform that it can't monitor or control. It can't kill WhatsApp, so it's demanding to be inserted into these conversations -- either directly or by lurking just offscreen whispering legal threats.

Not only that, but the quelling of dissent extends to the government itself. The flier also notes punishment awaits government employees who find the registration demand heavy-handed.
Govt. Employees serving in the district are directed to restrain from making any comments/remarks with regard to the policies and decisions of government on these WhatsApp groups running in the district and if anyone found involved in such activities, strict action will be initiated against them as required under rules.
Looking beyond this local dispute that has managed to drag in the world's most popular messaging service, one can see why it is essential that citizens have communication platforms that keep the government locked out. Encryption doesn't just "protect" criminals from law enforcement and innocent people from criminals. It also protects the innocent from their governments' self-serving overreach.


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Apr 2016 @ 6:38am

    Wait for it...

    I smell even more liberty being lost by people... everywhere!

    WWIII will be coming, but it looks like it might be everyone's citizens against their own governments.

    Or not, I mean look at the history of the world, Humans rather seem to like their dictatorships! America, once free has taken a quick likening to tyranny since 9/11.

    The fear is real....

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 21 Apr 2016 @ 6:46am

    We are going to outlaw rumor-mongering, even if the rumors are true. We will watch over each of your shoulders to make sure you behave correctly, and if anyone else in your group does not we will hold you responsible for the others.

    We will make it much easier to harass you for using this communication we can't tap secretly, so you might as well just do what we want and never say anything bad about those of us in government who are better than the rest of you chattel.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    JD, 21 Apr 2016 @ 6:47am

    Feature versus bug

    You and I might see "protect[ing] the innocent from their governments' self-serving overreach" as a "feature." I believe many governments see this as a "bug."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Apr 2016 @ 6:47am

    What a sad time we live in

    It is amazing the amount of oppression we have from today's governments. I guess it was always there and we just didn't notice it. In the digital age where you can communicate world wide in an instant, the governments are getting more fearful of what is being said and to whom. Sadly, at least in the US, it isn't any of their business but they insist on making it so.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Apr 2016 @ 6:51am

    and this sort of thing is going to escalate and, in my opinion, all because the USA security forces think it's better to remove all forms of privacy and freedom for the internet, mobile phones, tablets and everything else it can dream up! talk about letting itself wide open to every sort of abuse, hacking, and theft possible, all because certain people are so paranoid over terrorism. the problem is, the governments etc are behaving even more like terrorists than the terrorists and that cant be anything except bad!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Apr 2016 @ 6:54am

      Re:

      America... once defending the freedom and liberty of people has instead now helped the world understand that there is an easier way to oppress people!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        trollificus (profile), 21 Apr 2016 @ 2:35pm

        Re: Re:

        Yes, we'll lead the world in labor-saving technology for the citizen surveillance and national oppression industries!!

        We're number 1!!! We're number 1!!! We're...wait...won't this lead to massive unemployment among the "jackbooted thug", "enhanced coercive interrogation expert" and "truncheon-wielding pedestrian guide" demographics??

        Hmmm...with a minimum of retraining, we can expect to see some strict adherence to mall littering regulations, eh? And a serious upgrade in the enforcement competence of theater ushers. The Invisible Hand resolves such problems, only now it'll grab you by the throat and ask if you've expressed any anti-government sentiments recently.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Apr 2016 @ 9:00am

      Re:

      They support, fund and create the terrorists to fight proxy wars for them, then use the terrorists as justification for heavy handed dictatorial laws.

      In essence they created terrorism solely to create a tyranny.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Apr 2016 @ 7:05am

    Dumb dumd dumb

    "a government representative might also have to be added to the WhatsApp group as an admin"

    Dumb approach, they'll just move on. A much more effective method of catching 'bad guys'would be infiltration, but that would be work.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Apr 2016 @ 7:35am

    WTF? I didn't know India is almost as bad as China for this stuff. A government representative for every group chat? Do they do that for real-life groups, too?

    What the actual f**k?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 21 Apr 2016 @ 7:38am

    Beatings will continue until morale improves

    Rather than do something about why the public might be just a tiny bit mad, they instead try to suppress it, because clearly that always works.

    Not surprising I suppose, addressing the underlying problem would impact the government's power and might negatively impact the power of someone important, but there's a quote they might want to remember when it comes to cracking down on a public expressing it's displeasure/anger rather than addressing the reason why they are in that state:

    'Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.' -John F. Kennedy

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    mb (profile), 21 Apr 2016 @ 11:36am

    Postal Service

    Any service transmitting data from one point to another should be treated exactly like a postal service.

    The government, can look at the outside of the box and see who it's from and where it's going, but that's it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Apr 2016 @ 6:30am

      Re: Postal Service

      you sound like a sheep,
      you are talking about "only metadata" what is manure, but anyway...
      you know .gov KILLS based on metadata?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, 21 Apr 2016 @ 12:27pm

    Why Is It You Never See Liberal Governments Worry About “Rumour-Mongering”?

    Why is it always the more paternalistic ones?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Whatever (profile), 21 Apr 2016 @ 4:25pm

    Nice story, but it's more an example of why India has problems with government, and not anything else. Taxation and vexatious regulations are par for the course.

    Remember that India built a track for F1 cars and hosted a couple of races. The race disappeared quickly when both the company holding the event and the F1 teams were being subject to insane regulations and very high taxes. At one point, India's customs and excise people where trying to tax the teams on the values of their cars and equipment that they were importing into India in the same manner as any other goods import, with no regard for the idea that they material would be leaves again a few days later.

    India's tax and legal systems are obstructionist at best. It's one of the many reasons why India remains one of the most backward places on earth.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Apr 2016 @ 6:07am

    "The spokesperson also said that a government representative might also have to be added to the WhatsApp group as an admin."

    wow, India wants to be like the NSA then?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    TOR+raspberry+crypto chat server+app, 22 Apr 2016 @ 6:16am

    TOR+raspberry+crypto chat server+app

    can´t just EVERYBODY run a dumb ENCRYPTED TORRIFIED chat server on a raspberry?
    and log in from perfectly secure apps to chat?

    I thought every indian was sys eng?

    if they get your phone? NOTHING (ENCRYPTED/ERASED)
    if they spy your internet data? NOTHING (TOR*ENCRYPTED)
    if they SWAT your "server" (raspy) NOTHING (no storage/relay only)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    pmshah, 22 Apr 2016 @ 8:28pm

    Whatsapp group

    From what I understand this applies to groups only so what is to prevent an individual from sending their supposedly secretive or whatever messages to individuals and simply forwarding them to each individual they might have had in a group?

    When my mother passed away last year at the ripe age of 94 my daughter created a family group that is spread across the world. It is simply to keep everyone in contact and updated with news and events. I don;t care if a government overseer is also a part of the group but not with admin rights who can play spoilsport just for the hack of it. We limit out posts strictly to family matters with explicit restrictions on religious or political comments or any kind of forwards. Believe me, 4 generation of the family have come a whole lot closer and intimate.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    whatsapp features, 22 Jul 2016 @ 8:21pm

    Whatsapp New Features

    WhatsApp to introduce 10 new features which you should know. Check here

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Whatsapp New Version Review, 15 Mar 2017 @ 10:42am

    I just loved the new version of Whatsapp released just now. A wonderful update.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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