Social media platforms take a lot of pride in the efforts they put to keep the personal information of their users under the wraps.
They are not totally great at it, but if a new set of regulations from India comes into effect, these companies could be forced by the government agencies to reveal individual user identities as and when needed.
Back in 2018, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology proposed a new set of rules for social media and messaging services.
The guidelines, which have been open for public comment, require companies operating social media and messaging services to cooperate with government inquiries and share user information or post/message origins needed for investigations - without even asking for a warrant or judicial order.
From the government's view, the rules, which are likely to be published soon, have been suggested to identify/track criminals operating online and contributing to problems like terrorism, child porn, and fake news.
The country has been pushing platforms like Facebook to assist with inquiries/tracking for a long time, but this could be the final nail in the coffin to ensure blanket cooperation.
If published, the rules would not just make it difficult for big tech platforms - Facebook, Twitter, Google, TikTok - to operate in India but also risk the privacy of their 400 million+ users in the country.
Basically, the government would have the power to extract the personal information - from photo to place of work - of any Indian social media user.
According to the Internet and Mobile Association of India, a trade group counting Facebook, Amazon, and Alphabet as its members, the proposed rules, "would be a violation of the right to privacy recognized by the Supreme Court."
Having said that, despite the concerns over the controversial rules, the government appears set to publish them later this month, according to an unnamed government official cited by Bloomberg.
The person didn't provide specific details but said that the rules would come into effect without any major changes.
This could ultimately create problems for social media companies and their users in the near future.
"The guidelines for intermediaries are under process," said NN Kaul, the media adviser to the Minister of Electronics & Information Technology, in a statement. "We cannot comment on the guidelines or changes till they are published."
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