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India’s government, Facebook spar over code of laws on the top court

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – the indian government has asked Facebook Inc. on Tuesday to assist in the decoding of private messages within its network, citing national security requirements, a session on the privacy rights on social media platforms.

FILE PHOTO: India’s flag is perceived by a 3D-printed Facebook logo in this illustration picture, April 8, 2019. REUTERS/dado Ruvic/Image/File Photo

India’s attorney general, K. K. Venugopal told the Supreme Court that it is the responsibility of the social media companies to share information where there is a threat to national security.

“This year may not be entitled to claim a right of privacy,” Venugopal said. “For Facebook and WhatsApp in order to say that it is not possible to decrypt it, it is not acceptable.”

Facebook-owned WhatsApp, which has about 400 million active users in India, and it offers the possibility for groups of hundreds of users to exchange texts, photos and videos with the help of an end-to-end encryption, and is beyond the control of an independent fact-checkers, or even the platform itself.

The government said in a statement that it was going to be in the frame of the new regulations with regard to social media, with an eye to the ever-growing challenges to individual rights and the nation’s integrity, sovereignty and security.”

“They can’t come in to the country and say that we are in the setting-up of a non-decryptable system,” Venugopal said referring to a major internet-based platforms.

But, Facebook’s lawyer, Mukul Rohtagi told the court that the company is under no obligation to share information about users with the government of india.

The case went to the Supreme court, after Facebook, in August, had asked the top court to deal with all matters relating to the privacy and curbs on the use of social media sites, local media reported.

WhatsApp has been trying to find ways to prevent abuse, the following is to ensure that the platform is being used to spread disinformation, but it has been said that it doesn’t dilute the end-to-end encryption.

Rohtagi said the state laws are neither mandated companies to share information with the government, nor placed the burden of proof is on the facilitation of a process to decode the messages in them.

“The rules say that if I have the key, I would be able to give you the key. However, I don’t have the key to mine,” Rohtagi said, referring to Facebook or WhatsApp’s servers which are located outside India at the time.

The Supreme court said it will now consolidate all of the pending cases on the issue, the lower courts across the country, and to hear it in the beginning of the last week of January.

Tushar Mehta, an attorney for the government, said that there was no intention to intrude into the private lives of its citizens, and India wanted to protect its citizens against extremism.

But the Judge, Deepak Gupta, had asked the government’s lawyers to explain why the burden of facilitating the decoding, it should be in the social media business. He said the law allows the government to ask for help to decode it, but that doesn’t mean that the companies are making it possible for the government, he said Venugopal.

“No one can prevent you from having your own system of decoding,” Gupta said.

Editing by Sanjeev Miglani, Editing by William Maclean

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