Bowing to public pressure, govt withdraws draft encryption policy

22 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

After protests online, government finally withdraws draft encryption policy!.

The government of India has given exemption to social media apps like Whatsapp from a proposed new law that would ask all Indian citizens to store a plain-text version of any encrypted data for 90 days and make it available to security agencies. Yesterday, the government released a draft encryption policy aimed at keeping a tab on the use of technology by specifying algorithms and length of encryption keys used by ‘all’. The technology industry in India is understandably shocked, because this could make it far easier for hackers to find and read private information – defeating the point of encrypting it in the first place.

After a huge outcry, most of us woke up to the new proposed addendum this morning wherein the government has clarified to exempt products such as social media sites including WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter; payment gateways; e-commerce and password based transactions and more from the draft policy. In addition, the law states that any overseas companies using encryption must submit their full crypto software, along with testing suites and supporting documentation, for scrutiny by the Indian government. Not only will this law provide a backdoor to law enforcement agencies to access user data, which could be abused by hackers, but it is also going to make foreign technology companies very wary of doing business in the subcontinent.

According to TheNextWeb, “The Indian government has made a fool of itself and caused anxiety among citizens with a woefully misguided proposal for a national encryption policy that it’s just released to the public for feedback.” While we sit back and talk about Digital India, smarter cities and so on, the makers of the law seem to be clueless about some major by-products concerning these initiatives such as security, privacy and likewise. Each time the government talks about a new initiative meant to bring in some law and order pertaining to digital rights, it somehow manages to come up with implications that could affect us far worse. The whole net neutrality saga continued for months with assurance from the government on how it supports free and equal Internet, and eventually made ‘certain changes’. With the heavy mobile penetration and increasing number of encrypted mobile services that people use, it is really feasible for the government to ink an agreement with all the services that are based outside the country.

In the past, we’ve seen the blame game around the laws, usually the ‘hurriedly’ changed laws passed (after the inability to monitor encrypted messages during the Mumbai terrorist attacks) in the winter session of 2008 without any debate or discussion by bears the brunt. Earlier this year, we saw the government crack down the Section 66A of the 2008 Information Technology Act describing it “unconstitutional” and “hit at the root of liberty and freedom of expression, the two cardinal pillars of democracy.”

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