Over-the-top (OTT) communication services such as Whatsapp, Signal, and Telegram could face overregulation and potential threats to encryption, according to technology policy experts. This concern arises from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India‘s (TRAI) recent proposal to regulate such services, The Economic Times reported.
Currently, OTT services are regulated under the IT Act, soon to be replaced by the proposed Digital India Bill. Experts worry that if TRAI regulates OTT services, it could simplify government interception of calls. This could also lead to the end of end-to-end encryption, posing a risk to user privacy and potentially threatening operations of firms like Whatsapp in India.
Implications for OTT Services
If OTT services are regulated by TRAI and require a telecom license, they may be subject to telecom interception requirements. This could mean any calls could be monitored at any point by security agencies, necessitating the breaking of end-to-end encryption.
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Telecom carriers have welcomed TRAI’s discussion paper on regulating OTT players and on the selective banning of apps during instances of civil unrest. However, others argue that licensing OTTs will not address telco issues and that there are other viable options to support the challenges faced by the telecom industry.
Experts caution that compromising end-to-end encryption may not satisfy the proportionality and necessity test stated by the Supreme Court in the first Puttaswamy judgement. They argue that OTT communication services should be kept outside the jurisdiction of DoT and TRAI to protect the privacy, safety, and security of citizens.
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