There is a serious downside to the popular messaging apps and services in terms of empowering unscrupulous parties. As per this article at the Times of India, the Securities and Exchange Board of India SEBI has found out that mobile messaging services like Blackberry Messenger (BBM) and WhatsApp are being increasingly used to spread sensitive market related information to influence certain stocks. The market regulator is now planning on ways to tackle this problem.
However, keeping a tab on messaging apps is going to be difficult as these transmit messages in an encoded form that is difficult to decode for a third party. As per SEBI’s investigations into a number of insider trading and market manipulation cases, it was found that this feature of messaging apps has led manipulators to move on to them to continue spreading sensitive information.
SEBI has been catching up with the new modes of communication, in a bid to crack market manipulators. Last year, the regulator had hired special IT officers to keep an eye on blogs and social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, to track and identify the manipulators. It had recently announced that it would issue guidelines for sharing non-public material information on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, following the same by the Securities Exchange Commission.
But, tackling the problem with messaging applications will not be easy for SEBI without the help of telecom service providers. An official from SEBI stated that it is difficult to get any information shared from mobile messaging apps as well as Call Data Records. This decision to check manipulation via BBM and WhatsApp, is coming right after telecom service providers had agreed to provide the government with real time intercept facilities for Blackberry smartphones, meeting the December 31st deadline set by the government last year.
Whether SEBI is mulling on such measures or not, the recent growth of messaging apps will also pose new challenges for the market regulator.