Understanding Consumers’ Perspective on Encryption


Instant messaging services derive their popularity from the fact that they solve basic human need of talking and communicating with others. In this regard, they are like a postcard or a normal telephone. However, these services can do something which a postcard or a telephone can’t — making it difficult for others to overhear, thus enabling security in communication by ensuring privacy and anonymity.

Privacy is necessary to safeguard sensitive matters such as banking information, medical history, personal relationships, and the ability to explore unpopular or potentially embarrassing points of view. Also, it has been argued that right to communicate anonymously is part of freedom of speech and expression under the fundamental right to privacy.

Such privacy and anonymity are made possible through end-to-end encryption (E2E) technology, which is increasingly being used for conversations, sharing images, conducting business and making video calls. Data protection tools like encryption are deployed by platforms for free and by default for all users.

Despite increasing use of the encrypted communication services, it is not clear if consumers are aware of its role in securing communication, enhancing privacy and upholding free speech. Limited literature exists on consumers’ perspectives (awareness, perceptions, purposes, experiences, utility they derive, and expectations) of secured communication services, particularly in developing countries like India.

Also, there has been increasing risk of secured communications being used for illegal purposes. Owing to the focus on technology service providers, the role of consumers in preventing misuse of secured communication services has been ignored and underestimated. There is a need to understand how consumers deal with problematic content on communication services.

To this end, being a consumer facing organisation, CUTS is undertaking a project on understanding consumers’ perspectives on secured communication services through on ground consumer interactions and relevant secondary research.

PAC Members

V Sridhar, Professor, Centre for IT and Public Policy, International Institute of Information Technology Bangalore (IIITB).
He has published many articles in peer-reviewed leading telecom and information systems journals. He is the author of two books published by the Oxford University Press: The Telecom Revolution in India: Technology, Regulation and Policy (2012), and The Dynamics of Spectrum Management: Legacy, Technology, and Economics (2014). Dr. Sridhar has taught at many Institutions in the USA, Finland, New Zealand and India. He has been a member of Government of India committees on Telecom and IT. He has written more than 300 articles in prominent business newspapers and magazines relating to telecom regulation and policy in India. Dr. Sridhar has a Ph.D. from the University of Iowa, U.S.A., Masters in Industrial Engineering from the National Institute for Training in Industrial Engineering, Mumbai, India and B.E. from the University of Madras, India.

Deepak Maheshwari, Public Policy Professional with over 20 years of experience on Telecom and IT related issues.
He is a public policy professional with more than 20 years’ experience in Information Technology, Telecom, Cyber Security, Data Protection, E-Commerce, Digital Payments and Corporate Social Responsibility across India, ASEAN and China. He has worked in Symantec, MasterCard, Microsoft, Sify and HCL. Mr Maheshwari has experience in interacting with government officials and regulators across federal & state governments, trade associations, media, academic institutes, development sector and think tanks towards key policy reforms and advocacy by focusing on interplay of technological innovation and socio-economic development. He is an engineering graduate from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and also earned a degree in law.

Pooja Haldea, Senior Advisor, Centre for Social and Behaviour Change (CSBC), Ashoka University.
She is an expert in the area of applied behaviour science, especially in public health, nutrition and financial inclusion, and works closely with the Central and State governments. She has led over 150 projects in India helping clients leverage behavioural science for business advantage. Pooja set up the India office for BrainJuicer, a global research and consulting firm and thought leader in behavioural science-based research.
Before that, Pooja has worked for over a decade for McKinsey & Co. in the firm’s Indian and European offices, where she was an Associate Partner in the Consumer Goods practice. She has an MBA from IIM Bangalore and a Bachelor’s in Mathematics from St. Stephen’s College in Delhi.

Subhashish Bhadra, Principal, Investments, Omidyar Network.
Subhashish is responsible for sourcing, evaluating and managing investments in Digital Identity at Omidyar Network. He has previously worked in a global management consulting firm, where his work focused on public policy strategy projects. He also co-authored a report on “India’s Path from Poverty to Empowerment.”
A Rhodes Scholar, Subhashish has an M.Phil in economics from Oxford University and a B.A. in economics from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi.