India has become the latest democracy to contemplate legislation to undermine encryption and privacy, and has issued a consultation paper seeking public input.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has announced a “Consultation Paper on Regulatory Mechanism for Over-The-Top (OTT) Communication Services, and Selective Banning of OTT Services”. One of the queries is to “bring OTT communication services under any licensing/regulatory framework.” Another inquires, “in case it is decided to bring OTT communication services under a licensing/regulatory framework… in respect of… (a) lawful interception… (e) customer verification…”. It then devotes a considerable portion to, “issues relating to selective banning of OTT Services”.
These are serious questions that may prompt regulatory proposals leading to further eroding individuals’ privacy, end-to-end encryption on platforms such as Signal and Whatsapp, and formalize a whitelisting approach in which bans are made on a class of services that provide communication services such as even social media messaging and sharing.
The wrong recommendations, the lack of reasonable recommendations, and lawmakers disregarding public input to these queries have the potential to significantly damage the digital rights of India’s entire population.
The deadline for submitting written Comments on the Consultation Paper is 04.08.2023