back to article India bans open source messaging apps for security reasons. FOSS community says good luck

India's government has reportedly banned 14 messaging apps on national security grounds, including some open source services. News of the move appeared in local media last week, citing government sources for news that apps including Element, Wickrme, Mediafire, Briar, BChat, Nandbox, Conion, IMO and Zangi were banned on the …

  1. 3arn0wl Bronze badge

    Interesting last paragraph about Briar. It has Bluetooth connectivity too, of course.

    It's always been cat and mouse, ever since the advent of written communication. But however paranoid governments become, we have a right to privacy.

    1. Duncan Macdonald

      Rights - Peons have no rights !!

      As far as governments worldwide are concerned citizens have no rights - they are required to support their governments without protest.

      (Can you think of a living politician that you would be happy to leave alone in your house with valuables on display ? Yet they have life and death power over huge numbers.)

      1. 3arn0wl Bronze badge

        We do have rights

        Article 12

        No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

        1. Duncan Macdonald

          Re: We do have rights

          Except that very few countries view the UN declaration as anything other than a bit of waste paper.

          (examples - the NSA spying on US citizens, the FSB spying on Russian citizens etc)

          "Rights" are only meaningful when the governments choose to adhere to them.

          1. 3arn0wl Bronze badge

            Re: We do have rights

            The UN needs to start defending its declaration (and the rights of humanity). If increasingly authoritarian governments won't hold to that which they have signed up to : then they should be held in contempt, and sanctioned accordingly.

            Else the words are worse than meaningless : they're propaganda.

            1. anothercynic Silver badge

              Re: We do have rights

              They can't defend it, when three of the biggest perpetrators (USA, China, Russia) sit on the UN Security Council to veto anything that prevents them from doing what they want to do.

          2. OhForF' Silver badge

            Re: We do have rights

            "Rights" are only meaningful when the people are willing to defend them.

            Expecting governments or the UN to do that job for us is not going to work.

            When big companies and governments decide to ignore our right to privacy and the majority of the people just shrugs it off ("i don't care", "i don't have anything to hide", "There's nothing i can do") that right will be lost.

            Unfortunately that's just what is happening - not enough of us are willing to defend their right to privacy.

            1. anothercynic Silver badge

              Re: We do have rights

              Indeed. As seen in recent months with certain other rights.

          3. VoiceOfTruth Silver badge

            Re: We do have rights

            The USA is of course egregious when it comes to rights even within its own borders.

            "All men are created equal", unless they happen to be black in which case let them be slaves.

        2. fg_swe Bronze badge

          The Other Book

          ..calls for deadly violence on whoever does not subscribe to said book. Ask the Armenians or the Copts in Egypt for details.

      2. VoiceOfTruth Silver badge

        Re: Rights - Peons have no rights !!

        Citizens vs subjects

        -> concerned citizens have no rights

        We in the UK have a long history of serfdom, AKA subjects. The label used to read "British Subject" on passports. The wording nowadays is British Citizen. But as far as the powers that be are concerned, they are the priesthood and we are the unwashed masses.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Rights - Peons have no rights !!

          Is it because your passports are now made in France and we French don't like much that kind of Ancien Régime wording?

          Ok, ok, I'll take my baguette and bottle of wine and see myself out - - > [.]

          1. VoiceOfTruth Silver badge

            Re: Rights - Peons have no rights !!

            -> Is it because your passports are now made in France

            I always wondered who was paid off for that contract.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Right to Privacy?


      Quote: "....right to privacy...."

      (1) In a civil society, your right to privacy can be reduced if you are arrested and charged with an offence.

      (2) But it's also clear that the idea of "innocent until proven guilty" has been replaced by "guilty by implication"..... arrest, no formal charge!

      (3) ....because it's also clear that the police (and others) regularly invade an individual's privacy without a warrant.





      To get to the point.....citizens need to wonder whether there is any effective "right to privacy" in 2023!

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Right to Privacy?

        >” To get to the point.....citizens need to wonder whether there is any effective "right to privacy" in 2023!”

        If you become a person of interest to the tabloid press, evidence over decades shows you can forget any legal protections and reasonable ”right to privacy” expectations you may have…

      2. nematoad Silver badge
        Big Brother

        Re: Right to Privacy?

        "...innocent until proven guilty"

        I think that you have inadvertently hit on something here.

        It looks like the government of India is determined to keep going until they can jail anyone they dislike even if that person has acted within the law, so the government will just keep changing the law until it nails its target.

        I say inadvertently because although your quote is in common use logic should make it "innocent unless proven guilty."

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @nematoad - Re: Right to Privacy?

          "The offender Miles O'Brien, Human, officer of the Federation's Starfleet, has been found guilty of aiding and abetting seditious acts against the state. The sentence is death; let the trial begin." -- Deep Space Nine, s2e25 Tribunal.

    3. richdin

      Stamp Tax

      This is one of the triggers for the American War of Independence from the UK... demanding a "stamp tax" on newsprint (the actual paper) - which would only be available for newspapers loyal to the Crown. A means to throttle what messages were being published.

    4. Cliffwilliams44 Bronze badge

      This nonsense always reminds me of Goodfellas~

      "Paulie hated phones. He wouldn't have one in his house. He used to get all his calls second hand, then you'd have to call the people back from an outside phone. There were guys, that's all they did all day long was take care of Paulie's phone call."

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Confused Old Person Here.....

    ....wondering how anyone (nevermind a government) can ban a peer-to-peer application.

    The application only exists on individual peer end the ban seems to have an impossibly large number of targets.

    But I suppose that the ban might only apply to the TRAFFIC between peers (and not the application).......but how does that work?


    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Confused Old Person Here.....

      Having the app on your phone will be sufficient for authorities to infer you are up to no good and thus dig deeper into your life…

      So in a society where stop and search and produce papers is normal, just another reason to bully people.

      Interestingly, I wonder whether the P2P mesh functionality can be exploited to actively locate devices running the app. For example, outside cafe, police open their device (operating in stealth/ghost mode) note the details of six devices in cafe, so deem it is worth entering and grabbing people and devices…

      1. TheBruce

        Re: Confused Old Person Here.....

        Not wireless comm expert, but maybe if we can generste enough background noise and hide actual coms in it.

    2. Snake Silver badge

      Re: Confused Old Person Here.....

      Many possibilities I guess. Possibly the most obvious is demand both Google and Apple use the delete feature of their app stores to force uninstall the apps from the devices. From there, a port scan of the offending apps for active preferred ports will build a map that the government can use to force ISP's to port block the traffic; usually these P2P chat apps contact a main server to get the address of the person trying to be contacted for the other end of the conversation and then these clients negotiate communications between themselves, and these main servers can easily be blocked.

  3. naive

    What about whatsapp

    If whatsapp is not forbidden in India, maybe it is worthwhile to check their "end-to-end" encryption claims.

    1. 3arn0wl Bronze badge

      Re: What about whatsapp

      Well the UK is trying to get Meta to water down their E2EE. Threats of WhatsApp pulling out of the UK. Imagine the public's reaction to that.

      Should that eventuality arrive, surely it would push users onto other protocols such as Briar, Tox or Matrix... probably be a good thing.

  4. navarac Bronze badge


    ....should act to prevent the prevalence of scammers operating in their country instead.

    1. Bitbeisser

      Re: India....

      There is too much baksheesh to be made from those guys....

  5. Ken Hagan Gold badge


    "in-country representatives who can be held legally accountable for activity conducted with the apps"

    Back in the day, we used to call those "users".

  6. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "banned 14 messaging apps on national security grounds"

    Yes, citizens talking to each other is obviously bad for national security.

    But India should take a leaf out of the NSA surveillance handbook. Let them talk, and monitor everything.

    Or, for something more repressive, go to China, who monitors everything and suppresses, including by arrests, anything that Xi Pooh doesn't find palatable.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "banned 14 messaging apps on national security grounds"

      "Or, for something more repressive, go to China, who monitors everything and suppresses,"

      That's not more repressive than banning everything outright.

  7. jb72

    This caught my eye - "and imposed years-long connectivity restrictions that meant only 2G services were available – on the grounds that it made it harder for separatists to organize."


  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why no WhatsApp ban?

    “The intelligence agencies also informed the MHA that most of these apps are designed to provide anonymity to their users and their features make it tough to resolve the entities associated with them.

    So WhatsApp is not one of the banned apps because they can associate a phone with a person of interest by requesting user information from WhatsApp or the in country representative?

    So although the message might be end to end encrypted they can identify who is talking to whom and their locations. Presumably with certain exploits (publicly unknown, except to intelligence agencies) they can access their phone and view the screen making end to end encryption null & void.

    So if you know a WhatsApp username and the government requests all contact meta data associated with a user that gives you a lots of possible leads to monitor.

    Seems odd to only ban foss and not apps owned by corporations?

    Has India just let the cat out of the bag?

    1. Mr. Flibble

      Re: Why no WhatsApp ban?

      "So although the message might be end to end encrypted they can identify who is talking to whom and their locations. "

      Sometimes that is enough - in the early nineties in the UK, it was said that the police hardly ever needed wiretaps of (landline) phone calls, the mere fact that 1 person was talking to another person they knew was dodgy would be enough to put you and others you called under suspicion.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I can imagine the Tory Gov (UK) are watching with interest, as it's right down their rabid right wing street.

    Anon for obvious reasons..

    1. Lis Bronze badge

      Re: Ideas..


      "Anon for obvious reasons".

      No they are not obvious at all. The only one I can think of is just maybe, I repeat, just maybe, you are trying to imply that you are a (self) IMPORTANT PERSON?

    2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Ideas..

      You have nothing to fear from the current UK government. They *could* organise a piss-up in a brewery, except during Covid lockdown, when they had to have it in Downing Street instead, but apart from that they are utterly incapable.

    3. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

      Re: Ideas..

      And yet I don't remember any Labour Home Secs being any the less rabid. It doesn't matter which party is sitting in parliament, the power lies with the Home Office.

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