Last week Guardian revealed that The National Security Agency has obtained direct access to the systems of Google, Facebook, Apple and other US internet giants. It was also reported that the NSA access is part of a previously undisclosed program called Prism, which allows officials to collect material including search history, the content of emails, file transfers and live chats. While the news was being criticized, Indian ISPs have urged the Government to ask international internet giants like Google, Facebook and other American Web sites to set up local servers in India. The story that was reported by Medianama, was earlier reported by The Hindu Business Line.
The request that has been initiated by the ISPs comes right after the NSA news that has been accessing user data. The request made is under the pretext that having local servers will protect the data from US agencies accessing it.
Speaking on the issue Rajesh Chharia, President of Internet Service Providers Association of India, told Business Line that quite a few Internet companies and members of ISPAI, have expressed their deep concern for their customers and Indian users’ privacy to be protected form any such breach in the future. The Association has written to various Government authorities on the issue. It has been lobbying to get a level playing field with foreign Net companies.
But who will safeguard the privacy breach of the citizens by the Indian Government?
In a country where we don’t mind peeking into a neighbour’s house and that which has no privacy law in place, how will the setting up of local servers safeguard privacy of citizens?
Internet Service Providers Association of India is justifying the move as rational on the basis that US intelligence will not have access. Reports from Guardian state that USA has collected 6.3 Billion data from India in March 2013 through its National Security Agency (NSA)’s Prism program by tapping into the servers of companies such as Google, Facebook, Apple, Yahoo, Microsoft, for information including search history, the content of emails, file transfers and live chats.
So setting up local servers might be a way but then how are we going to be assured that US won’t have scanning rights for its intelligence purpose.
Besides this why have the ISPs not yet raised a voice against the Indian Prism – Centralised Monitoring System?
The UPA government led by the Congress had introduced the CMS in the parliament in 2012 and it started functioning in 2013. The system was laid to enable the government to monitor all phone and internet communications in the country. It will provide state bodies like the National Investigation Agency, centralised access to the country’s telecom network and facilitate direct monitoring of phone calls, text messages, and internet use by removing the procedure of getting access from private telecom operators.
Recently the Minister of State, Communications & IT and Shipping, Milind Deora had also tried to clear the misconception regarding the CMS in a Google Hangout. The minster stated that most of us are not informed but the CMS has been created not to invade individual privacy but to safeguard it along with the national interest.
But not many are buying the theory that Milind had shared in the Hangout considering the law was passed without any public debate. Recently CMS has been criticized by international NGO Human Rights Watch on the basis that the government has released very little information about what agencies will have access to the system, who may authorize surveillance, and what legal standards must be met to intercept various kinds of data or communications.
This is not the first case where we have heard about the request of setting up servers but this time it is not the Government but the ISPs who are setting up the process. It would be interesting to see the move from the Government as the Internet giants have often rejected such requests in the past.
With the Indian Prism – CMS already in action, do you really think that setting up local servers by Facebook, Google is any more required?
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