“Is snooping justified?’ is a question that is still being debated but in the meanwhile governments are busy bringing clarity on their activities. As we are aware, the US government has been hit by a surprise after NSA’s secret surveillance was brought to light.
With the help of whistleblower Edward Snowden, Guardian broke 2013’s biggest news 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 this move was being criticized and Internet giants were making their position clear before the world, the visiting US Secretary of State John Kerry has some different opinions. The story that was reported by The Hindu Business Line said that the US secretary believes there is an “enormous amount of misinformation and misunderstanding” about the program in the US which allows for monitoring of individual e-mail and telephone conversations.
Speaking to the media at the conclusion of the 4th India-US Strategic Dialogue, the US Secretary tried clearing the misconception about the monitoring process that is followed. He explained:
“It is a random survey by computer of any telephone or just a number, not even a name associated. It takes those random numbers and looks at whether those random numbers are linked to terrorists. Only then can they take that information to a judge in a special court and ask that court the permission to be able to go further in the investigation.”
With this process the US Secretary added that, “In so doing the evidence has shown from our FBI, intelligence community that we have avoided terrorist acts and saved lives.”
However, there has been no word from John on the revelations by Guardian 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.
In fact the Government of India had hinted that such activities raise the issue of personal security but not sure if this was discussed with the US Secretary.
But then Indian Government need not worry as it has already created an Indian version of Prism – the Central Monitoring System. A topic that found a point of discussion for the first time in a public platform - a Google Plus Hangout with Minister of State, Communications & IT and Shipping Milind Deora. The minister tried hard to explain how the monitoring is good for the user’s safety and protects personal data from telecom operators. But the real concern is ‘who will save the common man from the misuses of CMS especially when the country has no security law?’
Snooping can be justified on the grounds of national interest but even the misuse of such activities can’t be ignored. Right now Snowden is on the run and looking for asylum but thanks to him the world knows what the US has been doing all these years. India will have to wait for a local version of Snowden to know the harsh realities of the 400 crore CMS that has been in place since early 2013.
Image courtesy: telegraph.co.uk