Government violates the privacy of Indian Internet users, monitors activities of 160 million users

All this while, the NSA has been hogging all the headlines with the PRISM controversy and the Edward Snowden revelations, but it appears that our very own government is no less. A report by the Hindu indicates that the government has violated the privacy of Internet users in India and violates its own laws. Nearly 160 million Internet users are being subjected to wide ranging surveillance and monitoring which is in the violation of the Indian government’s own rules regarding the privacy of communication.

According to the report, the government’s own Central Monitoring System (CMS) is already active and is not in the early stages of its launch. The report claims that Lawful Intercept and Monitoring (LIM) systems have already been deployed by the Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DoT) for monitoring Internet traffic, emails, web-browsing and other Internet activities of Indians.

It has been noted that while Indian mobile operators deploy their own LIM systems allowing interception of calls by the government after due authorisation in accordance with Section 5(2) of the Indian Telegraph Act read with Rule 419(A) of the IT Rules. But in the case of Internet traffic, the LIM is deployed by the government at the international gateways of a handful of large ISPs, and the control of these systems resides only with the government,and nothing is in the control of the ISPs.

After the leak of the Amar Singh tapes in 2006, the government had notified safeguards for monitoring Internet traffic titled “Instructions for ensuring privacy of communications,” which required every ISP to have a nodal officer for communicating and coordinating requests for interceptions. These nodal officers need to hold meetings with the government every 15 days regarding the authenticity of the orders and the nodal officers are needed 24×7 to monitor traffic. According to the Hindu report, these guidelines are violated most of the times because most ISPs in the country don’t either have the governments LIM system installed, nor do they have designated nodal officers.

Even when the safeguards are present, the process of seeking authorisation of an intercept from a nodal officer exists mostly on paper and hence is abused with gay abandon. And because the government controls the LIM, it can directly obtain any information as it sends out the software commands.

Reportedly, the monitoring facility is available to nine security services including RAW, IB and MHA.

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