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Privacy advocates are up in arms after India the country’s government began stealthily rolling out a central monitoring system that will allow it to monitor its citizens’ phone calls and internet communications in the name of national security.
The multi-million dollar central monitoring system is believed to have initially have been conceived as a response to the threat of terrorism, such as the attacks which rocked Mumbai in 2008.
Now however, The Times of India reports, the system will be used not only by law enforcement authorities but also by India’s tax service and offers the state a single access point to “lawfully” intercept voice calls and texts, emails, social media and the geographical location of individuals.
Authorities haven’t exactly been keen to make much of a noise about the system, although it’s thought to have begun operation in the last month.
The system is backed up by the Information Technology Act 2000 and its amendments, which allow the state to “intercept, monitor or decrypt” any info “generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer resource” if public security is at risk.
Those opposing the monitoring say that India’s privacy laws are not stringent enough to prevent people from abusing the system.
The “StopICMS” campaign for instance argued the following on its blog:
[Government of India] GoI mainly asks Google to remove defamatory content. Why is that? Security for themselves, in the name of safety of citizens? Content removal requests have increased by 90 per cent from the GoI. 33 per cent of the requests from the GoI are about either hate speech, defamation or government criticism. Therefore, we can conclude that after implementation of ICMS GoI will primarily use it against “hate speeches” and government criticism.
Its argument is valid and India has been trying to censor social media for some time now. That said, the central monitoring system will not empower the state to monitor private conversations on overseas social networks such as Facebook or Twitter.