A group of anonymous Internet activists have launched a campaign against the government to protest the implementation of a centralised monitoring system capable of tracking online activities including phone calls, chat logs and e-mails.
“Anonymous will never accept such laws since we believe that the power should belong to the people, and the people do not want to be monitored like this,” the group said in a post on Pastebin and urged people to sign an online petition against the Central Monitoring System.
Starting this month, the government will run a pilot project to implement what it calls the “India Central Monitoring System,” according to reports. The monitoring system designed by the Telecom Enforcement, Resource and Monitoring (TREM) and by the Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DOT) and will be accessed by intelligence agencies as well as the police.
“We DID stop SOPA, PIPA and ACTA this way, and we will be able to fight ICMS the same way,” the post said.
The project is expected to cost nearly Rs 400 crore to set up.
The group also put up a picture explaining what the whole deal is about (embedded towards the end of the post).
Earlier this month, the Center for Internet and Society published a post on what such as Central Monitoring System would mean to freedom of expression and surveillance.
The post said:
Essentially, the CMS will be converging all the interception lines at one location and Indian law enforcement agencies will have access to them. The CMS will also be capable of intercepting our calls and analyzing our data on social networking sites. Thus, even our attempts to protect our data from ubiquitous surveillance would be futile.
Read the full paper here.
Government’s Surveillance Tools
As we had written before, the Indian government has been trying its best to get access to Internet data and has had its shot at Internet censorship from time to time. Besides the usual legal recourse, phone tapping, shadowing, questioning and on the ground investigation, the government has a whole new set of tools now.
Lets take a look at some of them
The Aadhaar numbers, issued by the government to all resident Indians, coupled with databases maintained by the criminal records bureau or the health department, can lead to profiling.
Aadhaar collects biometric information like finger print scans and iris scans. In the absence of a legislation governing the Aadhaar project and lack of strong privacy laws, there is a possibility of this data being misused.
The government is planning create a pool of DNA profiles of “offenders.” The center will introduce the bill, first introduced in 2007, in the Parliament to legislate this. According to experts, this could lead to large scale misuse. According to news reports, the bill will also cover people who go through abortion, fight paternity suits and receive or donate organs.
The center is buying software to gain access to secure mobile phones or password protected computers. The home ministry is buying more than 30 licensed software from firms in the US, Canada and Israel to crack seized mobile phones and computers, according to a recent report. It’s had trouble getting at information stored in Blackberry and iPhones.
In Maharashtra, the state government wants to install a network of 6,000 CCTV cameras across Mumbai. Bidding has been mired in controversies but the state is going to spend nearly Rs 500 crore to install these cameras. Similar networks are being installed in various parts of the country.
The national population register, containing photographs and biometric scans, is being setup at the cost of Rs 3539 cr. Data collection is underway. Many have been enrolled already.
NATGRID (National Intelligence Grid) will make it easy for security agencies including RAW, IB, CBI, Enforcement Directorate and others to access collated data from 21 different categories of databases including railway and air travel, income tax, phone records, credit card transactions, bank accounts, property records and other details.
The Mumbai police has setup a social media lab to gauge the mood of people and keep a watch on Internet activists.
A piece of spying software usually used by law enforcement agencies, capable of collecting information such as passwords and Skype calls and sending it to a command and control server remotely, has been found active in India, among 25 countries identified by a Canada based research lab. The alarming bit about it is that the research lab mentions that a growing body of evidence suggests that these tools are regularly obtained by countries where dissenting political activity and speech is criminalized.
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