India joins the intelligence global alliance calling for encryption backdoors

India signed a letter with Japan and Five Eyes Alliance (USA, UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada) asking tech companies to create backdoors in their end-to-end encrypted systems to enable enforcement and other authorities to pay attention to communications.

The letter says companies should provide lawful access to the system and that they should also build mechanisms which will enable authorities to ascertain content “in a readable and usable format where authorization is lawfully issued.”

With this move, these countries are making an equivalent old argument about encryption. They’re saying that end-to-end encryption prevents companies from monitoring who’s breaking their terms of service and community guidelines, including incidents like including child sexual exploitation and abuse, and terrorist propaganda. Plus, it hinders enforcement agencies’ efforts to prevent activities. It’s strange that while other countries have a delegated signatory from the govt named within the letter, neither India nor Japan has an authority mentioned.

Prasanth Sugathan, the legal director of Software Freedom Law Centre (SFLC), Say India currently does not have judicial oversight on surveillance and the Personal Data Protection Bill does not address the issue of state surveillance. This proposal is problematic because it gives excessive powers to the law enforcement agencies of these countries. They can now get easy access to information on users who rely on Signal and WhatsApp to communicate on sensitive matters.

Apart from the letter, there’s been no statement by the Indian government till now. So, it’s hard to understand what precisely the country is getting to do after showing its intent to endorse backdoors.