India allows nationwide surveillance of emails, phones without safeguards news
20 June 2013

The government of India is reported to have authorised a wide-ranging surveillance programme, on the lines of the US administration, that will give its security agencies and even income tax officials tap directly into e-mails and phone calls without oversight by courts or Parliament, several sources said.

The surveillance system will allow the government to listen to and tape phone conversations, read e-mails and text messages, monitor posts on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn and track searches on Google of selected targets.

Nine government agencies will be authorised to make intercept requests, including the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the income tax department.

While an expanded surveillance in the world's most populous democracy might help safeguard national security, there is no law in place to ensure that such data will be used for public good and not for private gains.

Nor has there been any public debate  and the government has said little about how it will work or how it will ensure that the system is not abused.

This has called for wider criticism of the Central Monitoring System (CMS) announced in 2011 and set in motion in April that will allow the government to target 900 million landline and mobile phone subscribers and 120 million internet users.

Official's refusal to divulge details of the surveillance programme, saying making details of the project public would limit its effectiveness as a clandestine intelligence-gathering tool.

Telecommunications ministry officials also defend the need for a large-scale eavesdropping system like CMS, saying, "Security of the country is very important. All countries have these surveillance programmes."

Their argument mainly centres round the terrorist threat to the country. They, however, try to overlook the arguments fin favour of individual's privacy concerns.

"The argument against is that without a transparent system of collecting data, India too will look like an authoritarian regime like China."

 India sent in 4,750 requests to Google for user data In 2012, the highest in the world after the United States.

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India allows nationwide surveillance of emails, phones without safeguards