Indian security agencies are unable to decrypt some of the communication on platforms like WhatsApp to readable formats for various reasons such as technical as well as legal and regulatory policy, Parliament was informed Friday.
“Security/law enforcement agencies face difficulty while dealing with encrypted communications by various application service providers including end to end encrypted communication message provided by WhatsApp,” Communications and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said in a written reply to Rajya Sabha.
He added that such applications make use of encryption technology and proprietary authentication protocols to secure messages.
“However, security agencies are able to intercept these encrypted communication services through the lawful interception facilities provided by the telecom service providers,” he said.
Prasad said mobile applications like WhatsApp have extraordinary reach, particularly in the field of information sharing and dissemination and these services are mostly availed by the citizens across the world throughout Internet.
“…but they (security agencies) are not able to decrypt some of encrypted intercepted communication to readable format as there are multifarious aspects involved in security/law enforcement agencies getting such encrypted communication in readable format such as technical, international relationship, legal and regulatory policy, commercial and security requirements etc,” he added.
The government, he said, regularly interacts with telecom service providers and other stakeholders, including social media providers to address the issues and implement the solution to resolve the issues arising from time to time to the extent possible keeping in view security, service and developmental needs of the country.
Recently, Facebook-owned WhatsApp introduced end-to-end encryption for all its services, meaning that the messages can now be read only by the intended recipients.
“Encryption is one of the most important tools, governments, companies and individuals have to promote safety and security in the new digital age. Recently there has been a lot of discussion about encrypted services and the work of law enforcement,” WhatsApp, which has more than a billion users, said in a blog post.
It added that while it recognises the important work of law enforcement in keeping people safe, “efforts to weaken encryption risk exposing peoples information to abuse from cybercriminals, hackers, and rogue states”.
Following WhatsApp, another messaging platform Viber also introduced end-to-end encryption of messages.