We missed this earlier.
Last week, the telecom secretary Aruna Sundararajan said that the government was not trying to impose blanket bans on messaging apps, PTI reported. “So, a lot of these solutions [to WhatsApp’s fake news problem] have to do with technology but it cannot be blocking of all apps. That is not intent at all…we should be able to go in and take corrective action…you can’t have all or nothing approach,” she was quoted as saying.
Sudararajan’s statement runs contrary to the government’s ongoing consultative efforts to figure out ways to block messaging apps. Of course, this is likely an alternative to shutting down the entire internet during times of distress, which the government has already done almost a hundred times this year. But the legal tools available to the government under the IT Act allow it to extend such bans indefinitely.
WhatsApp’s iCloud and Google Drive backups
WhatsApp has confirmed something that has long been speculated, but never been explicitly clear — chat backups of users on Google Drive are not encrypted. While the Economic Times reported this on Monday, the disclaimer on the WhatsApp website’s FAQ has been around since at least July 2017. In fact, Paul Manafort, a former campaign manager for US President Donald Trump, had his encrypted WhatsApp messages surrendered to law enforcement agencies investigating his conduct because they obtained the iCloud backup for his messages. This was in spite of reports last year that WhatsApp had begun encrypting iCloud backups.
This comes at a time when WhatsApp signed a deal with Google to ease the burden of WhatsApp chats’ backups on users’ Drive storage limits. Free Driver users are allowed to store up to 15GB on their Google Drive, and after this deal, WhatsApp backups won’t count against that limit anymore. It’s unclear if this deal allows WhatsApp to directly retrieve and provide chat backups to law enforcement without explicit clearance from Google. MediaNama has reached out to WhatsApp for clarification on this.
Last week, we reported that WhatsApp had refused to break its encryption over the Indian government’s request to identify the origins of misinformation in the country. The company said that it would not compromise on its users’ privacy.