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Commentary

OT: Even The Indian Government Will Spy On You

Nikhil at Medianama has an excellent piece on the stark lack of online privacy or rights. Milind Deora, India’s Minister of State for IT, has defended the Central Monitoring System (CMS) as being protective of security, while it snoops on private conversations, phone, email or otherwise.

The Indian equivalent of PRISM, the US snoopdog in the news recently, is likely to become operational sometime in the next decade, or if you write anything against the government.

This could be off-topic, but it is important that we understand what’s happening. The new IT rules that can take content offline even without a court hearing, or arrest people on a complaint, are a huge problem, and despite the politicians acknowledging it and police officers abusing them. The UID Project could lead to a disaster when that information is shared with parties who needn’t respect user privacy.

But these projects are not the whole problem.

As a data enthusiast I routinely come across data from the government that can easily be misused. Most recent birth-death certificates are now online, complete with details of parents and addresses. In a few years, these kids will become adults, and you could use this unprotected information to do strange things in their names; things that can at the least create a fake credit card in their name or at the worst, involve crime. Regardless of a government spy program or not, your data is out there, and is out there for people to find.

While a government spy program like CMS can easily be misused, I agree with Nikhil that we should force the government to create a privacy law. And then we need to fix the courts to actually protect these rights. (Note: If we can fix the court delays, privacy is only one of the problems we’ll solve) 

  • Kaushik says:

    I hope they are not passing the PRISM beta releases as ours indigenously made.

  • IsItPossible says:

    Guys, which world are you living in?
    Every government today which has capacity and capability to do spying in whatever form they can is already being done. You may like it or not but the moment you are using any electronics/internet you are connected to grid and are being watched constantly (if you forgot then please watch matrix movie).
    No organization can STOP a government from issuing orders in secret OR for that matter openly, to spy on any individual or organization or group.
    We need to fix the root cause and not put bandages. Implementation and execution of law and order all across the broad is missing and NO one in power wants to fix it as it benefits them. The only way to force government to make any substantial changes is by using the power of people, unless every citizen comes on the road and marches for a massive overhaul of the system, DO NOT expect anything to change for another multi-decades. It is sad but thats the truth…

  • XYZ says:

    Just recently, I think two days ago, the contact email address of an Indian government official was given as a yahoo address in a newspaper article. These guys are using yahoo and gmail addresses for official purposes because the official email systems are that crappy.
    No data is secure in India. The huge citizen data collection drive that happened in the name of competing national ID systems is another problem. People were finger-printed and iris-scanned. Most of these were middle class people (because I don’t think we have the resources or capabilities to organize this activity for 1.2 billion people). I fear that all of this collected data might have already ended up in some servers in the US.
    Despite all of the above, I think India is the most free country for freedom of speech. There are draconian laws on the books to restrict freedom of speech. Two people were arrested a few years ago for forwarding a spoof film clip that mocked a politician. But the flip-side of these draconian laws is that they are rarely enforced and our ‘chalta hai’ attitude rules the day.

  • worried says:

    Govt rules require id and address proof for buying gas cylinders to gold, booking tatkal tickets to getting foreign exchange, purchases over 7k(!!) by card, buying bonds and making FDs of even small amounts like 5k, and numerous other things. Photocopies of all these proofs must be floating around in many places. With no strict rules regarding data protection / privacy, there is already ample scope for misuse.

  • JustSaying says:

    The Indian Government has already gained access to our mobile chats. Remember those fights with RIM over access to BBM chats – and finally RIM gave up and set up a server in India providing access to all BBM chats. The Government has access to all the emails which are retrived in India and may be much more, which we are not aware. So as rightly said, there should be laws that curtail misuse and also appropriate protection of data collected by the Government. It should not happen that somebody has stole data from the Government servers.