Lawful Interception

Context :  

  • Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is studying the possibility of bringing platforms such as WhatsApp under the ambit of “lawful interception”.

Need of the hour:

  • These services do not fall under the licensing regime prescribed by The Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, and effectively operated in a regulatory dark spot.
  • While telecom players are subjected to lawful interception as per the telegraph law, over-the-top service providers (OTTs)platforms, by virtue of not being licensed, are currently not subject to interception by law-enforcement agencies.

Laws under which Lawful interception is made possible:

  • The Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 states that on the occurrence of any public emergency, or in the interest of public safety, the central government or a state government can take temporary possession — for as long as the public emergency exists or the interest of the public safety requires the taking of such action — of any telegraph established, maintained or worked by any person licensed under the Act.
  • This mandates telecom companies to provide access to messages, calls, and logs of these in case a court order or a warrant is issued.
  • However, the government, while clear on demanding access to message logs for law-enforcement purposes, is not relying on The Telegraph Act to meet this objective. Instead, it wants the platforms to come up with a solution to enable traceability.

Traceability Issue

  • Apps such as WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram, etc. claim to provide end-to-end encryption of their messages. This has caused some uncertainty among the authorities on how they can seek access to messages.
  • End-to-end encryption means that messages are encrypted to protect against WhatsApp and third parties from reading them.”

Source: Indian Express

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