Acting on a petition filed against the National Investigation Agency's (NIA) use of Gmail in an advertisement seeking information on Hyderabad blasts, the Delhi High Court on today directed the government to prepare an email policy within four weeks in accordance with the Public Records Act, according to reports.
A petition was filed in connection with an ad in newspapers given by the NIA on 31 March this year, which sought to gather information on the suspects in the 21 February twin blasts in Hyderabad's Dilsukhnagar.
The advertisement announcing an award of Rs10 lakh for any information that would lead to the arrest of the accused, featured the land-line number and the postal address of the agency's Hyderabad branch.
It also provided a gmail address (firstname.lastname@example.org) to facilitate speedy receipt of crucial info regarding the terror blasts.
Gmail uses the server of a private company headquartered in the US and its usage by the country's top investigating agency naturally raised many eyebrows in view of the potential for compromising national security.
The recent Snowden revelations highlight the gravity of issue in the backdrop of US intelligence gathering practices that tracked sensitive internet data of many countries including India.
Meanwhile, the government yesterday said it might ban email services including GMail and Yahoo for official communications by the end of this year to safeguard its critical and sensitive data.
''E-mail policy of the Government of India, as this will be called, is almost ready and we are taking views from other ministries on this. Our effort will be to operationalise the policy by mid or end-December,'' J Satyanarayana, secretary, department of electronics and information technology (DeitY) told presspersons in New Delhi.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Confederation of Indian Industry's (CII) 'Cloud Summit 2013 - Developing Cloud Strategy', he said all official communication of the government would be routed through the official website – National Informatics Centre's (NIC) email service.
The policy would help optimise the amount of critical data from the government's database that would gain protection. It would also aim to make it mandatory for government offices to communicate only on the NIC (nic.in) platform rather than depending on foreign companies' services such as GMail, Yahoo, Hotmail or Rediff.
The move has been prompted by concerns voiced by some intelligence agencies over the use of email services provided by foreign firms (mostly US-based).