The central government isn’t interested in providing access to Facebook and Twitter via official systems and networks. In a recent development, the central government has told the Delhi High Court that it will issue an advisory prohibiting government employees from accessing social networking websites like Facebook, Twitter through official systems and networks.
The matter came up while a division bench of acting Chief Justice BD Ahmed and Justice Siddharth Mridul were listening to the ongoing argument on the public interest litigation (PIL) filed by former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader KN Govindacharya. The PIL states that the use of e-mail accounts whose servers were outside India and transfer of the nation’s official data using this medium violated the Public Records Act.
The bench has asked the centre to immediately issue advisory prohibiting public servants, who already have an official e-mail account, from using external services. The bench also took a note that 4.5 lakh government employees have been allotted official email accounts and they have started using them.
However, there would be a requirement of five million such account holders and setting up of such e-mail accounts would require some time and infrastructure.
The court has also told the government that the server pertaining to the official e-mail account should be “housed in India itself”.
Last year after the Guardian revealed how the NSA was snooping on confidential data of different countries, the Indian government decided to ask its employees to stop using Google’s Gmail for official communication. As Google has its servers in the US, the employees were asked to stick to the official email service provided by India’s National Informatics Centre.
The move to use this official email service didn’t gain much support but the matter became critical when BJP leader K N Govindacharya filed a PIL asking for framing an email policy. Addressing the concerns raised by the PIL on cyber snooping, Delhi High Court gave four weeks of time to frame the policy.
Around Christmas last year, reports resurfaced that the policy would be announced shortly by Minister of State for Communications and IT, Milind Deora. However, the email policy that is expected to cover about 5 to 6 lakh Central and State government employees – costing a whopping Rs. 50-100 crore to make it fully operational – is nowhere close to implementation.
In fact Delhi Court had slammed the government and had questioned its delay in the month of February but there are no further developments on the same.
Besides the government is also proposing another policy “on acceptable use of IT resources of the government of India” that lays down the guidelines with respect to use of all IT resources.
Further discussion on the case will happen now on 30th of April.