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Does Apple’s iMessage fall under the IT Rules applicable to messaging apps?

While it is clear that messaging apps like WhatsApp, Signal, and Telegram fall under the purview of Information Technology (IT) Rules, 2021, Apple's encrypted messaging service iMessage has fallen into a grey area. The Hindustan Times quoted an unnamed official saying that iMessage does not have to comply with the rules, but another official from the IT Ministry told MediaNama that the rules do not discriminate between messaging platforms and applies equally to all. MediaNama has reached out to Apple for comment and is awaiting a response. What do the Rules require messaging apps to do? Among other things, the new IT Rules, which were notified on February 25 and went into effect on May 25, require messaging apps with over 5 million registered users in India to: Appoint key managerial roles: Social media intermediaries must appoint a chief compliance officer, nodal contact person, and resident grievance officer, all of whom are Indian residents and employees of the platform. While WhatsApp and Telegram both complied with this requirement a few days after it went into effect, Signal and Apple are yet to do so. Enable traceability: Messaging apps must also enable the identification of the first originator of a message. No major messaging platform has complied with this provision yet. WhatsApp has sued the Indian government over this, arguing that the traceability mandate will require the platform to break end-to-end encryption for all its users, which will violate the users’ right to privacy and freedom of speech and expression, and is beyond the…

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