India Rolls Out Central Monitoring System to Snoop on SMS, Online Chats

The project is called the Central Monitoring System through which the GoI will have unrestricted access, a single window view if we may, to each byte of information that follows across the telecom network in India. Different agencies of the government like the National Investigation Agency as well as tax authorities will have also access to communication data of citizens of India.

The single point of access to the communication network will allow the GoI to intercept voice calls, text messages, social media interactions, and even pinpoint an individual based on his / her geographic location. The interception would be ‘lawful’ considering that India’s Information Technology Act 2000 and the amendments thereof already have provisions that allow the government to “intercept, monitor or decrypt” any information that has been “generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer resource” if security of the nation and public order are at risk.

Privacy advocates already have blown their trumpet and are worried that Government, in the name of national security, could end up snooping and spying on people thereby abusing the system where enough privacy safeguards are not in place for protection of citizens.

It seems that even though the government will be able to monitor and intercept phone calls it will have to get a court order to go about monitoring of someone’s private social media conversations.

Indian government has increasingly asked Google to reveal personal information of its users and this is quite evident from the transparency reports Google has been publishing since a few months. According to Google the Indian government made as many as 2,500 requests in the second half of 2012.

This is not the first time when Government of India has taken such measures as back in August of 2012 it held 20 Twitter accounts to be responsible for spread of communal violence and blocked them.