WhatsApp is fighting for the privacy of citizens of the world’s largest democracy. This week, the Facebook-owned messaging platform sued the Indian government in a bid to challenge new IT rules that ask messaging apps to trace the “first originator” of a message. Doing so could require WhatsApp to weaken its end-to-end encryption, revealing the identities of senders and affecting the security of its 400 million-plus users in India—and possibly billions of others worldwide.
While it is difficult to assess the possible outcomes of the lawsuit, it could potentially dictate the kind of communications technology and online safe spaces available to Indians going forward, and could set a precedent for what other governments would demand from not just WhatsApp but other secure messaging apps. Complying with these rules would endanger the fundamental right to privacy, experts say, because undermining encryption for one would mean doing so for all. Traceability and end-to-end encryption cannot coexist.