Meity says Intermediary Guidelines will not be used to break encryption

Economic Times, May 08, 2021

The IT Rules 2021 will not be used for forcing intermediary platforms such as WhatsApp, Signal, etc. to break end-to-end encryption, said Rakesh Maheshwari, Group Coordinator, and Head– Cyber Law, Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology (MeitY).

Amar Patnaik, Lawmaker, and Member, Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Personal Data Protection Bill 2019, said once the bill has been passed through Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha and it would be the apex law governing personal data protection, and the IT rules should be consistent with it. He also emphasised the need to build state capacity for the effective implementation of the rules and the PDPB.

To this, Maheshwari added that the IT Rules seek to curb the spread of “problematic unlawful information” on intermediary platforms while citing the example of revenge porn and related content.

He said the rules aim to ensure the safety of people, especially women and children on intermediaries.

At the same time, Ashish Aggarwal, Vice President – Public Policy, NASSCOM, pointed that rules would possibly reduce the ease of doing business (EoDB) for intermediaries owing to low thresholds for ‘significant’ social media intermediaries; lack of clarity on classification of intermediaries; and standard operating procedures.

Under the new norms of the Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code of 2021, social media platforms having more than 50 lakh users will be considered ‘significant intermediaries’.

Aggarwal urged that further time be provided for compliance and called for proactive dialogues between stakeholders while adopting a case-by-case approach for regulation.

Amol Kulkarni, Director Research, CUTS added that scientific regulation tools such as Cost-Benefit Analysis should be adopted to ensure that the cost of implementing regulations do not outweigh the intended benefits of the rules.

They were speaking at a virtual event organised by CUTS International that was attended by executives from NASSCOM, Center for Internet Society, Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, Centre for Communication Governance, among others.

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