Jio, Paytm support lawful interception of messages on OTT platforms

Jio, Paytm support lawful interception of messages on OTT platforms
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10 Jan, 2019

Telecom company Reliance Jio and Alibaba-backed digital wallet firm Paytm are in favour of lawful interception of messages sent and received via online service providers for chat, video and voice calls. 

In their submission with regard to the consultation paper by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on setting up a regulatory framework for over-the-top (OTT) service providers such as WhatsApp and Skype, the two companies have said intercepting messages is critical for investigations into unlawful and anti-national activities, according to a report by The Economic Times.

Paytm in its submission is reported to have said: “There have been instances in the past wherein an OTT provider has failed in monitoring fake news spreading through their platform resulting deaths of our fellow Indians. In such situations, it becomes necessary that OTT providers also be subject to appropriate regulations such as those applicable to TSPs." 

NASSCOM, the trade association for the information technology and business process management industry in India, said that the need for decryption was a duplication of provisions under the IT Act. The submissions by these bodies also indicated that it will lead to increase of cost to users and uncertainty for the service providers, it added.

In November, TRAI had asked for submissions on the consultation paper which, among other things, proposed a clause on licensing and interoperability of OTT service providers which have functions similar to that of telecom companies, in order to establish a ‘level-playing field’ with the Telecom Service Providers (TSPs). 

Rajan S Mathews, director general of industry body Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) which represents telecom firms, had told TechCircle that OTT players should be subject to a licensing fee, adding that there should be a ‘light touch’ for other OTT players which do not compete with the TSPs including online retail apps and content players. 

Industry body Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), which counts Google and Facebook as members said, that licensing for communication applications will be detrimental for internet platforms, according to The Economic Times report. 

The discussion comes at a time when the government is already working on the IT Intermediaries Guidelines (Amendment) Rules 2018 and Personal Data Protection Bill 2018 which covers aspects of encryption, localisation of critical data and framework for intermediaries to take down objectionable content.