WhatsApp could allow messages traceability; governments could know the source of a message

According to personal data protection specialists, the Indian authorities have requested the popular messaging service WhatsApp to digitally fingerprint messages sent through the platform without violating encryption, as this way messages would be traceable, which would facilitate some government intelligence.

The Indian government believes that WhatsApp should have the ability to identify the source of a specific message, the number of people who have received it, and the number of times it has been forwarded, all without having to access the message content. For the Indian government, tracking a message from this platform has become a priority after a series of fake news about kidnaps caused multiple lynching in different territories.

“Our intention is not to read user messages, we only intend to trace the origin of messages forwarded to multiple users that generate this kind of confusion”, said one Indian government official. India is one of the main markets for WhatsApp, with more than 300 million registered active users

For a long time, law enforcement agencies in various countries have been in favor of such measures, arguing that metadata (username, number of participants in a group chat, etc.) is not sufficient information for intelligence tasks.

However, according to personal data protection specialists, WhatsApp end-to-end encryption does not allow messages to be tracked without being read, making it impossible to track a message without breaking encryption, which consists of a violation of the user’s privacy.

The messaging service, owned by Facebook, does not store data about user messages, but according to the personal data protection experts from the International Institute of Cyber Security (IICS), if accessing requests from India, WhatsApp should restructure its architecture. The main drawback is the coup against user privacy, if WhatsApp did this in India, surely other governments would send similar requests to the company, which could lead to a scenario of espionage and mass surveillance against anyone. 

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