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Tech firms should not use encryption as excuse to hold up assistance to law enforcement: MeitY Secy

"While encryption is a welcome thing about 99.99% of the time, when it is necessary to come to the assistance of law enforcement agencies to bring perpetrators of wrongdoing to justice, then we expect that encryption will not be held up as a silly excuse to deny them" Sawhney said

September 28, 2021 / 08:39 PM IST
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Technology companies should not hold up assistance to law enforcement agencies by using encryption as an excuse, MeitY secretary Ajay Prakash Sawhney said on September 28.

"While encryption is a welcome thing about 99.99% of the time, when it is necessary to come to the assistance of law enforcement agencies to bring perpetrators of wrongdoing to justice, then we expect that encryption will not be held up as a silly excuse to deny them" Sawhney said while speaking at Global Fintech Fest 2021.

"While you and I chat on a day to day basis, I would like complete encryption. But if some heinous crimes occurs and then someone says encryption is such a sacrosanct thing that it doesn't matter what happens, it is more important than law enforcement itself, I think I have a quarrel with that" he said.

These comments come at a time when WhatsApp has sued the Indian government over the traceability requirement in the new IT rules in May 2021. The Facebook-owned messaging app had said this requirement will force it to compromise the privacy of its users and lead to mass government surveillance. Last month, the Delhi High Court sent a notice to the government seeking a response on the petition as well as application to stay the implementation of these rules.

Using the government's public platforms

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Sawhney said that entrepreneurs should also tap into opportunities emerging from the government's public platforms across various domains. He said the opportunity that UPI provided to payment companies is becoming available in areas such as healthcare, education, agriculture, and logistics and will soon be available in areas such as rural development, welfare schemes, jobs and skills, the criminal justice system and many of the domain platforms that take shape.

"Each of these domain platforms will be at India scale and going through the process to become a member of that ecosystem through the regulatory sandbox or the developmental testbed will give you an entry into a responsible ecosystem where data is organized at a pan India scale" he said.

During the session, Sawhney also noted that it is important that the government put its weight behind the construction of healthy ecosystems such as UPI and Account Aggregators which helps all citizens.

"As we move forward, it is also important that we construct ecosystems where all the players know their roles and responsibility, live up to them, are transparent about what they do and what they don't do with data and are open to audit," he said.

"For instance, UPI is dealing with some of the most sensitive layers of digitization, which is the core banking system. Yet, when UPI came in, all the banks happily gave access to the system which in turn has given access to entities such as PhonePe, Paytm, Amazon Pay, Google Pay and Bhim. It is because each of these entities is bound by certain contractual norms, where the banks know that UPI will actually treat that access with tremendous responsibility and care" Sawhney added.

This will benefit everyone since citizens will get amazing services and innovators can bring in a large spectrum of new services that add to what the government is able to provide. "If any such entity is able to provide services at price points that make sense to poor people in India, it actually has the makings of possibly a globally dominant platform" Sawhney said.
Vikas SN
first published: Sep 28, 2021 08:32 pm

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