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Indian Government Quietly Brings In Its 'Central Monitoring System': Total Surveillance Of All Telecommunications

by Prasad Krishna last modified Jul 02, 2013 09:12 AM
There's a worrying trend around the world for governments to extend online surveillance capabilities to encompass all citizens -- often justified with the usual excuse of combatting terrorism and/or child pornography.

The blog post was published in tech dirt on June 8, 2013. Pranesh Prakash is quoted.


The latest to join this unhappy club is India, which has put in place what sounds like a massively intrusive system, as this article from The Times of India makes clear:

The government last month quietly began rolling out a project that gives it access to everything that happens over India's telecommunications network -- online activities, phone calls, text messages and even social media conversations. Called the Central Monitoring System, it will be the single window from where government arms such as the National Investigation Agency or the tax authorities will be able to monitor every byte of communication.

This project has been under development for two years, but in almost total secrecy:

"In the absence of a strong privacy law that promotes transparency about surveillance and thus allows us to judge the utility of the surveillance, this kind of development is very worrisome," warned Pranesh Prakash, director of policy at the Centre for Internet and Society. "Further, this has been done with neither public nor parliamentary dialogue, making the government unaccountable to its citizens."

That combination of total surveillance and zero transparency is a dangerous one, providing the perfect tool for monitoring and controlling political and social dissent. If India wishes to maintain its claim to be "the world's largest democracy", its government would do well to introduce some safeguards against abuse of the new system, such as strong privacy laws, as well as engaging the Indian public in an open debate about what exactly such extraordinary surveillance powers might be used for.

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