After public outcry, the Narendra Modi government on Tuesday withdrew the controversial draft encryption policy that proposed to make it mandatory for every citizen to save all digital communications, including emails and chats, for a period of 90 days.
The government had sought to address the issue by releasing an addendum to the draft which clarified that web-based applications and social media sites such as WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter were exempt. Hours later, Union Minister for Communications and IT Ravi Shankar Prasad said he had directed withdrawal of the draft.
The draft policy had proposed that while citizens and businesses may use encryption technology for storage of data and communication, everyone will be required to store the plaintexts of that information for a period of 90 days. Citizens were also required to provide verifiable plain text to law enforcement agencies as and when demanded.
Sources said that it was never the government’s intention to bring individuals within the ambit of the policy. The Hindu had reported on Tuesday that the policy initiative would not impact the common man.
Mr. Prasad stressed that the policy “relates only to those who encrypt … ordinary consumers of applications do not fall in this domain.”
The Minister, however, added that there was a need for an encryption policy which would apply to those who were involved in encryption of data.
Most experts said this policy could not have worked simply because end consumers did not have any idea what encryption was and in most cases it was done by applications. Users could not decrypt that, only application providers could.
Meanwhile, the Opposition parties too attacked the government on the issue with the Congress saying that the Centre’s intent stood “exposed,” while the CPI(M) dubbed it ‘Gujarat Snooping Model.’