Does Apple's iMessage Fall Under The Scope of IT Rules?

Reports suggest iMessage comes under a grey area, unlike other messaging apps.

Tech and Auto
2 min read
<div class="paragraphs"><p>Apple’s encrypted messaging service iMessage has fallen into a gray area.</p></div>

Over the last few months, there has been a lot of chatter regarding the implementation of the new IT Rules. But though messaging apps like WhatsApp, Signal, and Telegram fall within the scope of the IT Rules, Apple’s encrypted messaging service iMessage seems to be a grey area.

While an industry source told Hindustan Times that Apple's iMessage might not have to comply with the new IT rules, an IT department official told MediaNama, a technology news website, that the rules do not discriminate between messaging platforms and apply to everyone alike.

The Quint decodes whether Apple's iMessage falls under the scope of the new IT rules 2021.

Which Apps Come Within the Ambit of the IT Rules?

It should be noted that all significant social media intermediaries consisting of more than 50 lakh (5 million) users, which means Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal and Koo, are categorised as large social media platforms, and falls under the scope of the new IT rules.

According to a research firm Statista, as of March in 2021, WhatsApp has clocked more than 390 million users in India and Facebook had 320 million users in India.

Twitter also has more than 17.5 million users in India, as per the numbers from January this year. The made in India social media platform Koo has crossed 60 lakh users.

How Many Users Does iMessage Have?

While it is clear that WhatsApp is above that mark, there are no exact numbers on Apple’s iMessage user base in India.

According to a report by TechCrunch, which cites numbers from popular market research firms – Counterpoint and Cybermedia Research, Apple has succeeded in doubling its market share in the country.

There are more than 760 million smartphone users in India, and as per Statista, Apple's iPhone share in June 2020 was roughly 3.54 percent.

This indicates a roughly 27 million user base for iMessage in India. The iMessage service is available to anyone with an iPhone or Mac.

So, If we assume that even one fifth of the iPhone population, about 5.4 million users in India, use iMessage or simply have the application turned on, then iMessage falls within the scope of the rules and must comply with the IT laws.

Has iMessage Complied With IT Rules?

It is important for every social media intermediaries to appoint a Chief Compliance Officer, Nodal Contact Person, and Resident Grievance Officer, all of whom are India based and employees of the platform.

While WhatsApp and Telegram have both fulfilled this requirement, Apple has not yet complied with the new IT Rules.

The Quint could not contact any of the listed officers on Apple support.

What Happens if Apps Don't Comply?

The IT laws state that when an intermediary fails to observe these rules, the provisions of sub-section (1) of section 79 of the Act shall not be applicable for such intermediary, and the intermediary shall lose its legal immunity and shall be liable for punishment under any law for the time being in force including the provisions of the Act and the Indian Penal Code.

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