The story of monitoring social media networks seems to be at the front burner for the Government of India. According to the Times Of India, National Investigation Agency (NIA) has approached the Department Of Telecom to install the Central Monitoring System (CMS) once it is successfully tested by Center for Development of Telematics (C-DOT). This will then help NIA not only to intercept telephones but also keep a tab on social networking sites without any involvement of telecom service providers.
The news has surfaced after TOI reported that a letter has been written by Loknath Behera, Inspector General (Intelligence & Operations) requesting Ram Narian, Deputy Director General (Security) for the installation of the CMS facility. Subsequently, NIA has also had some close door meetings with C-DOT, which is responsible for building the CMS project.
Established in 1984, C-DOT is an Indian Government owned Telecom Technology development center. At present the department is the responsible nodal agency of the 170 crore CMS project.
In the fight against Government and social media, the Indian Telcos have been the hurdle. Recently, when the Government realized that blocking social media sites was not achieving big success so it came up with an idea of state-wise blockage during grave situations. However, the Telcos of India were not happy to do it since it would have led to installation of new setup of infrastructure and increase in the cost too. So, this could be one of the reasons why NIA wants to ignore the Telcos and see if they can use CMS and monitor communications of Indians, offline and online as well. It won’t be an easy job but then India is not the first country to be doing it.
From FBI to MI6, everyone today is tracking social media as the openness of networks have posed a challenge for governments since there has been an ongoing misuse of the networks. So monitoring and working on it quickly is today’s demand but where do we draw a line between national integrity and personal space or speech is a never ending debate!
What surprises me is that the Government is spending enough money and time in controlling social media but isn’t doing much on how it can use the medium effectively. After Sam Pitroda’s failed Twitter chat nothing much has happened and I don’t see any reason to be optimistic too.