Facebook, WhatsApp, Skype and others to face regulation in India

Facebook WhatsApp, Skype and many other OTT service providers could find themselves under the regulatory radar of Department of Telecom

Mohammad Kanchwala
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All major Social Media and Instant Messaging platforms such as Facebook WhatsApp, Skype, Google Talk and many other OTT (Over-The-Top) service providers could find themselves under the regulatory radar of the Department of Telecom. Currently there are no ways to monitor these platforms, as said by the Centre to the Supreme Court on Wednesday.

Telecom service providers are expected to adhere to certain regulations, which OTT service providers such as Facebook WhatsApp, Skype etc are exempt from, using internet services provided by the telecom operators’, offering calling and messaging services without any monitoring framework in place.

A petition filed by Karmanya Singh Sareen questioned the privacy policy of such OTT service providers, to which WhatsApp filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court stating that, "OTT services are governed in some respect by the provisions of Information Technology Act, 2000 and are not subject to the same regulatory mechanism that is enforced on conventional voice and messaging services provided by telecom service providers" as reported by the Times Of India.

Kapil Sibal, and K K Venugopal, who appeared on behalf of WhatsApp and others, argued that due to a mutual contract with individual users and the OTT service providers, privacy as an issue in the controversy was moot.

Madhavi Divan, arguing on behalf of the petitioner said that the insufficient privacy on WhatsApp was a violation of an individual’s right to privacy, to which Kapil Sibal responded that messages sent through WhatsApp were protected by end-to-end encryption which prevents even the OTT service provider from reading them.

“DoT shall finalize policy direction on various aspects of regulatory and licensing framework for OTT services after taking into account the TRAI recommendations on the subject… recommendations of DoT’s committee on net-neutrality,” as stated in the affidavit filed by The Centre in Supreme Court, reported by Hindustan Times.

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