With the appointment of grievance officer for India, WhatsApp partially fulfils the demands of the Indian government to curb the spread of rumors. Read on to know more about these recent developments…
With the widespread criticism of Facebook owned WhatsApp service in India used to spread false information and news, last month WhatsApp has hired U.S-based Komal Lahiri who is the grievance officer and is the lead who handles complaints about the service from users, law enforcement and other government officials. Her LinkedIn account, however, states that she has been “Senior Director, Global Customer Operations & Localization” at WhatsApp since March. Prior to that, she spent over three years with Facebook and Instagram in the U.S.
WhatsApp claims over 1.5 billion active users per month, India is its largest market and it accounts for an estimated 200 million of that figure. Despite the many benefits of a more connected society, according to Indian government, information on WhatsApp has led to a number of troubling incidents. Due to the spread of rumors in India on WhatsApp, Facebook has tried to advise people by taking out full-page advertisements in an assortment of daily newspapers as well as educational camps, but the Indian government has pressured WhatsApp to do more. Recently, the Indian IT minister met with WhatsApp COO Chris Daniels after the Indian government had sent two letters to Facebook owned WhatsApp asking it to make its service more accountable and enable law enforcement agencies to use it.
When the Indian government pressurized Facebook to do more on curbing fake news and messages, WhatsApp has instead said it’s impossible to track messages since its service is end-to-end encrypted. WhatsApp company website mentions that “We also offer end-to-end encryption for our services, which is always activated. End-to-end encryption means that messages are encrypted to protect against WhatsApp and third parties from reading them,”. WhatsApp said it will part with information “which we are reasonably able to locate and retrieve”.
In earlier correspondence with MeitY, WhatsApp had maintained that it will not violate user privacy by breaking end-to-end encryption. This was after MeitY demanded traceability and accountability of fake news and rumors spreading on the platform, so that law enforcement agencies can know the origin of the message(s).
However, Facebook has added some features India specific features in WhatsApp messenger which indicates when a message has been forwarded, and another feature which limited the number of times messages can be forwarded on. But this hasn’t solved the problem for the government of India. WhatsApp is at least stepping up its efforts with this hire, but it remains to be seen how adequate a job Lahiri can do from the U.S.
WhatsApp has additionally laid out the following for law enforcement agencies
• WhatsApp will “take steps” to preserve account records for official criminal investigations for up to 90 days, provided that the agency/body has filed an official preservation request. “We do not retain data for law enforcement purposes unless we receive a valid preservation request before a user has deleted that content from our service,” says the company’s new policy.
• Law enforcement agencies can make an “emergency” request for information “to a matter involving imminent harm to a child or risk of death or serious physical injury to any person.”