TWALKITOUT: For about two weeks, the entire world is buzzing with the talks and comments about PRISM. The NSA whistleblower, Edward Snowden, is seeking asylum in Equador and taking refugee in Russia. The United States of America has issued a warning to various nations not to offer any kind of support to Snowden. India, on the flip side, demanded the United States of the details about PRISM and if any Indian participation in it.
But amidst all these things, Government of India is silently setting up an Indian Central Monitoring System (ICMS) to aid the public agencies such as CBI, RAW, NIA, Enforcement Directorate and Intelligence Bureau to collect information and to safeguard the country from terror attacks, corruption and many other anti-social activities . This was the purpose of the ICMS when the law was passed back in 2011. But International Human Rights watchdog HRW has raised concerns over its functionality.
How it works?
Indian Surveillance System ICMS is being setup with the cooperation of all network operators and Internet service providers (ISPs) operating in the country. They can tap the phone calls, intercept the SMS, e-mails, chats, social network updates, conversations and search engine trends. To put in a nutshell, whatever you do in your mobile and internet can be tapped and tracked. What’s more alarming is that these agencies don’t even require the judicial permission to access this data.
Phone tapping and email monitoring is not new in Indian Surveillance System. Even before this law was passed, they have been doing it. But to tap an email or intercept an email conversation, the concerned authority has to provide the documentary evidence showing the necessity of such interception to the court and obtain a special warrant. If ICMS is set up, they would be free to track anyone.
Given the Indian conditions, the fear is that this law could be easily misused by the empowered people as against the original purpose of this law. We have already seen that a few unexplained frontiers of law are used by those who are in power to suppress the powerless people. This could go the same way if not properly monitored.
StopICMS, a non-profit organization fighting right from the announcement of the law in 2011, has stated that in the recent days, Government of India’s requests to the search engines to block defamatory content have increased by 90%. Most of them are concerned with defamatory content and hate speech against the VVIP personalities. We have seen in the past the arrests of Social Networkers for hate speech. ICMS could intensify those. You could be arrested for hate speech in even your text messages.
ALSO SEE: WHAT IS NSA’S PRISM PROGRAM?
The cost of establishing this Indian Surveillance System is estimated to be USD 4 billion. But the laws are not clear who will handle these systems. If they are outsourced like the Aadhar profiling system, then nothing could be devastating than this. The Government has not made it clear whether the data will be shared with third parties or under which circumstances. The ICMS network was supposed to begin its operation on April 2013. A press release from the Government states that the launch is postponed to December 2013. But StopICMS has claimed it has evidence that ICMS is indeed operating from 2011 itself.
If United States’ PRISM is like peeping in your home through the window, this ICMS is nothing short of someone sitting inside your own house. What could be worse than someone reading your personal chats and direct messages?
(– via editor, ” Though, there are a lot of pros and cons addressing the matter, common people in India do not have much to hide. this program or such monitoring activities have helped expose a lot of scams as well. In India, where the common man suffers more from the divide amongst the poor and the rich, a middle class struggling force would not have much of a privacy concern when they take maintaining their own privacy as a troublesome task. All we need to maintain is the protection of fundamental right to speech and expression.”)
(photo credits: freedigitalphotos.net)
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