No Info on Int’nl Encryption Policy India Signed, Says MEA in RTI

India was apparently a signatory to an treaty on end to end encryption on 11 October 2020.

2 min read
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The Internet Freedom Foundation had filed an RTI with the Ministry of External Affairs about an international encryption policy that India was a signatory to but the MEA says it has no information regarding the same.

According to the Foundation, on 11 October 2020, India had become a signatory to the “International statement: End-to-end encryption and public safety”, which calls on technology companies to weaken end-to-end encrypted secure messaging by invoking concerns about public safety.

The Foundation filed an RTI with the Ministries of Home Affairs, External Affairs and Electronics & IT asking them about India’s involvement in the Statement.

In a reply dated 13 November 2020, the Central Public Information Officer & Legal Officer of the Ministry of External Affairs’ Legal & Treaties Division, Mr Sudheer KJ, has stated that:

“... we could neither trace any records under the jurisdiction of this CPIO nor could identify any other public authority which may possess related information pertaining to the subject matter of the query...”.

"This response as well as a failure to identify other relevant public authorities to transfer the application to is indicative of either one of two situations. First, information under the RTI act is being withheld with respect to a matter that squarely falls within the ambit of public interest. Or, second, there is an absence of a proper coordination or consultation with the principal ministerial office, i.e. the Ministry of External Affairs as to an international statement. Either inference is troubling since the statement undermines the fundamental right to informational privacy that is preserved through end-to-end encryption,” said the foundation in a statement.

"It should be noted that that in the unlikely outcome that assent to this statement was not on the basis of proper consultation within government offices, an urgent review must be conducted and a rights based assessment may be adopted after obtaining a legal opinion on the consistency of this international statement with the constitutional articulation of the fundamental right to privacy,” it further added.

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