WhatsApp won’t divulge to Indian agency information on high-value target

WhatsApp won’t divulge to Indian agency information on high-value target

By ABHINANDAN MISHRA | NEW DELHI | 10 September, 2017
WhatsApp, California, United States, CrPC, Indian agency, investigation, inquiry, trial

Instant messaging service WhatsApp, which is headquartered in California, United States, has refused to share with Indian security agencies the chat- and call-details of a high-value target the agencies have been tracking. After some effort, the agencies had got hold of the WhatsApp number this high-value target was using while operating in the central parts of India, after which an agency had approached WhatsApp. The Sunday Guardian has accessed the letter a senior officer of an investigating agency wrote to WhatsApp. The letter gives the mobile number of the individual and seeks details of the WhatsApp chats done from the number. The letter was written in the last week of August. However, in its reply, WhatsApp declined to share any such information with the Indian agency. It said that it did not share to a third party the content of any chats or calls made by any individual. It further added that it had never shared any such data with any intelligence agencies around the world.

Due to security reasons, The Sunday Guardian is not disclosing the name of the individual, the number and the details of the organisation that had written to WhatsApp.

The Indian agency had sought the information from WhatsApp by quoting Section 91 of the CrPC, which gives power to an officer or a court to seek production of documents or any other things necessary or desirable for the purpose of any investigation, inquiry or trial.

In the two-page-long letter to the WhatsApp headquarters, the officer had given a complete background of the organisation the wanted man is allegedly working for, and the number of people who have been killed by this organisation.

The officer also mentioned the details of the FIR which has been filed against the user of the mobile number. “The contents of the WhatsApp account being used by this number is (sic) very important to understand and subvert the designs of this organization. Your response is very important to us to pursue our investigation,” the letter reads.

Officials in the security apparatus said that it was very important for the Ministry of Telecom, in consultation with the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to devise a policy urgently under which a communication medium like WhatsApp, which is headquartered in another country, comes under the purview of Indian laws.

“WhatsApp calling and messaging have now become the preferred medium of communication for anti-national forces and we are right now clueless about keeping a tab on it. We need a policy where, when it comes to national security, these apps will be forced to share information with the security agencies,” said an officer aware of the development.

As per WhatsApp’s privacy policy on its website, the social media platform collects information on its users which can be used to respond to government requests. “We may collect, use, preserve, and share your information if we have a good-faith belief that it is reasonably necessary to: (a) respond pursuant to applicable law or regulations, to legal process, or to government requests; (b) enforce our Terms and any other applicable terms and policies, including for investigations of potential violations; (c) detect, investigate, prevent, and address fraud and other illegal activity, security, or technical issues; or (d) protect the rights, property, and safety of our users, WhatsApp, the Facebook family of companies, or others,” it says.

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