Saturday, May 29, 2021

Union Government on Privacy in Social Media

Government is asking Whatsapp to share the origin of any message. But, to share that information, Whatsapp has to disable End-to-End Encryption, which would make the chat messages prone to attack. If the chat messages are not encrypted, even the Government may hack them.

For a non-technical person, it may be hard to digest that, with Whatsapp End-to-End Encryption, even Whatsapp cannot read your messages. To read the messages, one has to get hold of your mobile (or data in your mobile), or the mobile of the other person with whom you chatted, or the backups (if they are enabled). Without that, it is not possible to read the messages. 

Whereas, for other social networks, if they can get hold of the servers where the site is hosted, they can get all the data. But, with Whatsapp, it is not possible. One needs to hack all the individual mobiles to get the data. 

When Blackberry phones were popular, Indian Government shamelessly asked them to reduce the no.of bits in the encryption key. When the encryption key has less no.of bits, it is relatively easy to hack the data even if it is encrypted. But, if there are more bits in the key, it becomes hard to hack the data. 

With the history of the Indian Government, on what it is doing with the social networks, it is very clear that it wants to hack the users' chat messages. Eventhough, it is saying that it wants to find only the origin, but, their behavior does not say that. 

If they really want to get only the origin of the message without disabling the End-to-End Encryption, then they need to show a way on how to do that. Whatsapp clearly says, they cannot do that (either because they do not know or there is simply no way to do that). Indian Government simply says, "You find out". It is like, Indian Government ordering a pharmaceutical company to find a table for corona which would cure the disease in a day. 

Science and Technology does not work by orders from the Government. Scientists and Experts need to spend time and finally they may find something. Government needs to ask scientists to check the feasibility of this. When the scientists find some solution, they need to publish it for everyone in the world to read and check. If no one in the world finds any loophole in that solution, then the Government can ask Whatsapp to implement that solution. Without doing anything, just asking them to find the origin of the message is nothing but asking them to not encrypt the chat messages and leave them for hackers to hack. [The first hacker could be potentially Indian Government itself.] 

In fact, in Mathematics and Theoretical Computer Science (Where Cryptography is a part), scientists may even prove that it is impossible. When they prove that it is impossible, we can never find the origin of the message by keeping the End-to-End Encryption. 

Even if the scientists find a way to find the origin, by keeping End-to-End Encryption, it is still a major privacy violation of the users. 

If I am talking to my friend personally, then I have full right to talk whatever I want, as long as myself and my friend are fine with that. Government or any other person/organization does not have any role in what I talk to my friend. Even if it is offensive/illegal/objectionable or whatever might be, as long as me and my friend are fine with that, no one should be involved in our matter. This is a basic privacy that everyone expects.

But, if I talk offensive/illegal/objectionable content in any public forum, then the law of the land would be applied and the Government may take appropriate action against me. But, if I am talking between four walls with a friend in the physical world, or in one-to-one communication in a digital world, no one should interfere in that. 

Now, whatever I talk to my friend, if my friend shares that information with his/her other friend, then even that communication between those two people should be between those two only. No one should enter between them. Even if the content that he/she shared with his/her friend was provided by me, I don't have any right to interfere. It is their personal communication.

Now, if my friend's friend shares that information with someone else and they share it with their friends and if it goes to many people, and at some point if one person makes it public, then who needs to be punished. It is the one who made that information public should be punished. But, Government wants to find me and punish me. 

Government should punish only those who have done that in public. It is not the Government's business to see what individuals are talking about in their personal life. It is a gross violation of the privacy of Individuals. 

If the Government comes to this level of interfering with an individual's life, then we cannot talk to others freely like how we are talking till now. Even with our very close friends, we may have to talk in a parliamentary language, and we may be prohibited from talking about gossip, unproven news and many other things. 

Government made a huge issue, when Whatsapp was trying to share unimportant information (Other than the chat messages) to its parent company. They said it is a violation of users' privacy. Now, it is asking for something by which there is a serious privacy violation of the people.

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