END TO END ENCRYPTION: PRIVACY AT RISK

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Introduction

In today’s time we all use applications like Whatsapp for instant communication, while using whatsapp most of us must have noticed the app says that chats in whatsapp are end to end encrypted. To be able to understand what this means lets understand what encryption is and how it works. So when we use the internet through our gadgets, we all transmit and receive a lot of data. And some of this data is sensitive such as passwords, bank information, personal photos, etc. and might result in serious consequences if stolen or tampered with. So, how can we ensure that this does not happen? This is when encryption comes into play, Encryption is the process of converting our data into an unreadable format that no one else can read or change. It’s what keeps us secure in the internet’s vastness. Now that we have an understanding of what encryption means and what it does let us now come to end to end encryption, End-to-end encryption is exactly what it sounds like: it allows for encrypted communication that only the sender and receiver can read/see. No one in the middle, including Whatsapp, the government, or any messaging service provider, can access or decode communications transmitted between devices. In other words, the communications you send are decrypted at the communication’s endpoint – the device to which you’re sending them. Your communications will not be decrypted or viewable by the service you’re sending them through (for example, Whatsapp).

 

India’s new IT rules 2021: Privacy at risk?

In February of this year, the Indian government issued the Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021. The social media intermediaries/platforms were required to follow a much stricter set of guidelines within three months, which ended on May 25. Out of the rules mentioned one of the rules were that Law enforcement authorities will be able to demand that platforms track out the message’s ‘initial originator.’ To put it in a layman’s language, the Centre wants platforms to collect and record who said what and who shared what for communications exchanged on the platform on a daily basis. This also exposes the door to data hacking efforts. Now that platforms like whatsapp which have an end to end encryption based application were to follow these guidelines then they will have to let go of their policy of end to end encryptions, which as mentioned above ensures that the data is safe as the sender and receiver can only read and see the messages. With these guidelines being issued a lot of questions were raised and in fact whatsapp had decided not to implement these guidelines and went to the Supreme Court regarding the same issue as if these guidelines are followed they will have to let go of their policy of end to end encryptions which will lead to risking the privacy of users as if the platforms store all of these data with them to hand over to the law enforcements then it will become very easy for hackers to hack the data wherever it is stored and then privacy and security of user data will not be matched to the current standards. Since end to end encryption doesn’t allow any third party to read the messages exchanged between two parties that government has a saying that a safe space is created for criminals as they can easily communicate on these platforms without any security checks being made on them. However, a question was raised on the intentions of the government that whether the government cares about the space where criminals can communicate or whether this is all together a master plan to have the power to easily spy on the people. Based on the data accessible to us both are likely to be true.

 

Conclusion

To conclude it can easily be said that the Implementation of end-to-end encryption ensure the privacy of the user data as only the two parties involved (sender and receiver) can read the data however if platforms like whatsapp agree to implement the new IT rules of India then there would be a huge risk to the privacy of the users as these platforms would regularly need to give the data to the law enforcements and also as the data of the users would need to be stored at some place then it would also increase the chance of the data being hacked and  hence the privacy of the users in any of the case would at a huge risk.

Article By: -Prakhar Rai

References

  1. https://www.indiatoday.in/technology/talking-points/story/whatsapp-says-india-s-new-it-rules-that-ask-for-message-tracing-will-end-privacy-for-users-1807130-2021-05-26
  2. https://www.drishtiias.com/daily-updates/daily-news-editorials/information-technology-rules-2021-1
  3. https://www.kaspersky.co.in/blog/what-is-end-to-end-encryption/21897/
  4. https://www.thesslstore.com/blog/end-to-end-encryption-the-good-the-bad-and-the-politics/
  5. https://academy.binance.com/en/articles/what-is-end-to-end-encryption-e2ee

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