Security agencies in India may be able to lawfully intercept and store all communication in India in nearly half of the service areas covered by phone and internet operators by the year end, according to a news report.
The program, called central monitoring system (CMS), is like the United States’ Prism program which lets agencies tap into phone networks and internet connections and analyze and store away all the information.
The Firstpost reported an official source as saying
The government has decided to set up a CMS for lawful interception monitoring which will facilitate the direct electronic provisioning of target number…without any manual intervention from telecom service providers. It may take some more time, say December 2013, to commission CMS in 10 service areas
According to current regulations, security agencies are required to approach telecom operators for intercepting communications of their targets, any other methods used to to intercept communication by other parties is considered unlawful. The Department of Telecom has recently proposed to raise the penalty for unlawful interception from Rs 1 crore at present to Rs 2 crore under the Right to Privacy Bill in the works.
However, if the CMS is implemented, government agencies will be able to monitor target numbers without involving telecom service providers. Once this indigenous system is installed, government agencies can track all communication traffic – wireless and fixed line, satellite, internet, e-mails and voice over internet protocol ( VoIP) calls without involving third parties like service providers.
The system was slated to be in place by March 2013, but the deadline has now been extended to December. The reason cited for this was the delay in setting up of remote monitoring centres.
After repeated intelligence failures, the government seems to be on a security overdrive all of a sudden. the Home Ministry is on a hiring spree of high calibre professionals for the CMS project and has sought to ban application like WeChat.
The Centralised Monitoring System (CMS) project being being implemented by the Indian government has been critiqued in India and abroad. Recently international organisations like Human Rights Watch (HRW) and UN had raised serious doubts about the human rights violations the CMS may cause.
“The Government of India is proposing to install a Centralized Monitoring System that will route all communications to the central Government, allowing security agencies to bypass interaction with the service provider.Such arrangements take communications surveillance out of the realm of judicial authorization and allow unregulated, secret surveillance, eliminating any transparency or accountability on the part of the State.” The UN Human Rights Council report said.