You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

Worried About The NSA? Be Glad You Don't Live In India

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, September 11 2013

Last week The Economic Times reported that India's massive surveillance apparatus known as the Centralised Monitoring System (CMS) will be “operational soon." Others believed it to be at work as early as May of this year. When CMS finally made headlines at the time, activists worried that India's existing privacy laws wouldn't be enough to protect consumers from snooping government officials abusing their powers. Lo and behold: on September 9 The Hindu reported that India's 160 million Internet users are already being thoroughly surveilled, and that the government's activities violate laws meant to ensure “privacy of communications.”

An investigation by The Hindu revealed that the Centre for Development of Telematics already relies on Lawful Intercept and Monitoring (LIM) systems to monitor email, browsing, Skype and “any other Internet activity of Indian users.”

This is in part because regulations that require so-called "nodal officers" to oversee interceptions of information are often overlooked, and without that safeguard in place, “the ISP-level mandatory check for authenticating government’s monitoring orders to protect user privacy is absent. In effect, all Internet traffic of any user is open to interception at the international gateway of the bigger ISP from whom the smaller ISPs buy bandwidth. 

The government has the ability to search Internet traffic by IP address, URL, fttps, https, webmail, and broad searches by key work or phrases.

The Hindu concluded:

Though it is presumed that the provisions of Rule 419(A) [which requires checking for interception authorization] are followed, no one within the government or the ISPs was willing to reveal as to who sends the “intimation for interception”, or who checks its authentication and who implements it, especially since the search is made on the basis of “keyword” across all traffic rather than a specified targeted surveillance.

Tech Dirt's Glyn Moody believes that Edward Snowden's leaked files about NSA spying has flushed out similar surveillance schemes worldwide, leading to the exposure and criticism of India's CMS (he also points to Sweden as an example). It will be interesting to see if anything happens with the collective outrage building in countries like the U.S. and India, or if people continue to be rather complacent about government surveillance.

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network and the UN Foundation for their generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.