SC rejects plea to ban WhatsApp, other messaging apps

30 June 2016

The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected a petition that sought a ban on WhatsApp. The petitioners had claimed that the messaging platform's end-to-end encryption made it impossible to be broken into and posed a security threat.

A bench of Chief Justice of India T S Thakur and Justice AM Khanwilkar asked petitioner Sudhir Yadav, a Right to Information activist from Haryana, to approach the telecom tribunal for relief.

''Even if WhatsApp was asked to break through an individual's message to hand over the data to the government, it would fail, as it too doesn't have the decryption keys,'' Yadav had said.

WhatsApp had in early April upgraded security, enabling its every message with 256-bit encryption that couldn't be broken into. It gave terrorists a means of communication impossible to intercept and even WhatsApp didn't have the keys to break the code, Yadav said, flagging concerns about other messaging platform such as Hike, Viber and Secure.

A single 256-bit encrypted message would take hundreds of years to be cracked, something even a supercomputer would not be able to do, he said

Encryption is the process of encoding messages or information in such a way that only authorised parties can read it.

Yadav said he was not asking for a ban but wanted the government to ask WhatsApp and 20 other similar applications to share their private key.

WhatsApp is a multi-mobile instant messaging platform that uses the internet to send text messages, documents, images, video and audio messages to other WhatsApp users through mobile phones. (See: SC to hear plea for banning WhatsApp, Viber, others).

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