High Court (India)

August 26, 2019

IFF Files IIT-Bombay Professor’s Submission In Madras HC That Whatsapp Traceability Is Vulnerable To Falsification

[ By Bobby Anthony ]


The Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) has filed an an independent expert submission by IIT-Bombay’s Professor Manoj Prabhakaran in the Madras High Court stating that the process of tracing WhatsApp messages back to its original sender is vulnerable to falsification.

The IIT-Bombay professor’s submission is against IIT-Madras Professor Veezhinathan Kamakoti’s suggestions to the court about introducing traceability on WhatsApp.

The expert submission made by IIT-Bombay Professor Prabhakaran has highlighted risks and long term ineffectiveness of IIT-Madras Professor Kamakoti's proposal to introduce traceability on encrypted platforms.

According to Professor Prabhakaran, Kamakoti’s suggestions are vulnerable to falsification, besides the fact that tweaking encryption through a backdoor would undermine user privacy and security.

It may be recalled in this connection that Kamakoti had suggested two ways to identify originators of messages on WhatsApp to help law enforcement agencies in India catch perpetrators of misinformation and rumours.

However, the Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) has argued that if Kamakoti's suggestions are accepted, it would have a grave impact on whistleblowers, journalists, activists, and others who could face violence if their identity on WhatsApp is exposed.

The IFF urged the court to refrain from venturing into highly complex and technical decisions regarding the change of the design of an encrypted platform like WhatsApp.

The IFF also stated that such decisions should only be taken after a deliberative policy formation process involving experts and stakeholders.

Incidentally, these submissions were made as part of an ongoing hearing in the Madras High Court regarding a public interest litigation (PIL) which sought to link social media accounts of users to their Aadhaar numbers.

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