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Encryption Law Outrage forces Indian Government to Retreat

The government said it would place it in public domain again after reworking some of the “expressions” that had given rise to “misgivings”.
Ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) withdrew the contentious draft encryption policy on Tuesday (September 22) after massive public uproar on proposed measures.

The government said it would place it in public domain again after reworking some of the “expressions” that had given rise to “misgivings”.

The draft policy which was set up by an "expert group" under the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY) which comes under the union ministry of communications and information technology, sparked outrage on social media, as most messaging services use some form of encryption.

The policy was introduced under Section 84 A of the Information Technology Act (2000). It was proposed to enhance information security in India.

It was released earlier on Monday (September 21) and proposed to make it mandatory for every citizen including business, telecoms and internet companies to save all digital communications, including emails and chats, for a period of 90 days in plain text which should be presented before the law enforcement agencies whenever asked to. Failing to do so would mean legal action as per the laws of the country.

Later in the day, it had sought to address the issue by releasing an addendum to the draft which clarified that web-based applications and social media sites such as WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter were exempt. Payment gateways; e-commerce and password based transactions were also excluded as the transaction details through payment gateways could be vulnerable to hackers.

But the next morning Union Minister for Communications and Information Technology (IT), Ravi Shankar Prasad had directed withdrawal of the draft.

During a news conference held, Prasad stressed that users would not come under the ambit of the encryption policy which the government is in the process of framing.

The minister also said that the government completely supported freedom on social media. But the regulation of encryption technologies was the need of the hour.

With the regular stream of terrorist attacks, cyber attacks from international borders, freedom has become very vital. Though it’s the basic right, but citizens need safety, security and assurance that their lives will continue to be safe.

Most experts termed this policy as non practical as the end consumers did not have any idea about encryption and in most cases it was done by applications. Users could not decrypt that, only application providers could.

Meanwhile, the Opposition parties too attacked the government on the issue with the Congress saying that the Centre’s intent stood “exposed,” while the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI(M)) tagged it ‘Gujarat Snooping Model.’

In 2010, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government said it would ban Blackberry Messenger Service (BBM) in India unless the company gave security agencies access to snoop on emails. The two eventually reached an arrangement that allowed the government to intercept messages sent on Blackberry's platform.
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