In order to further safeguard national security, Government of India has launched a wide-ranging surveillance program that will allow security agencies and income tax officials to tap into e-mails and phone calls without oversight by courts or parliament (According to a report by Reuters).
The government introduced Central Monitoring System (CMS) in the parliament in 2011 that will facilitate and prevent misuse of lawful interception facility, however very little was said then about how it will work or how it will ensure that the system is not abused. It was finally in April this year, that government started to quietly roll out the CMS state by state, according to government officials. As a result, state bodies like the National Investigation Agency will now be free to monitor any of India’s 900 million landline and mobile phone subscribers and 120 million Internet users.
According to the officials involved in setting up the new surveillance programme, human rights activists and cyber experts, the new system will also allow the government to read text messages, monitor conversations and posts on Social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn or twitter and track searches on Google. Moreover, the agencies will no longer need to seek a court order and depend on service providers to intercept the user data.
Nine government agencies will be authorised to make intercept requests, including the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), India’s elite policy agency, the Intelligence Bureau (IB), the domestic spy agency, and the income tax department.
Comments from the service providers – Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India, Idea Cellular and others on this new surveillance program are still awaited.