Despite widespread alarm at infringement of privacy of citizens ever since the Central Monitoring System (CMS) was announced in 2011, India’s new surveillance program has reportedly been quietly rolled out state by state in April this year. There has been no public debate about it and the government has said little about how it will work or how it will work to ensure that the system will not be abused.
Citing anonymous sources, Reuters reports today that India’s wide-ranging surveillance program will give its security agencies and even income tax officials the access to e-mails and phone calls without oversight by courts or parliament as reported by several sources. Eventually it will be able to reach anyone among India’s 900 million landline and mobile phone subscribers and 120 million Internet users.
The raging furore over the various programs employed by the National Security Agency (NSA) to gather data in America notwithstanding, the Indian government has reportedly just launched a pretty extensive surveillance program of its own.
Through the initiative, officials will reportedly be able to monitor posts on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, while being able to track search queries submitted to Google by “selected targets.” So far Indian officials have maintained that making details of the project public would limit its effectiveness as an intelligence-gathering tool.
Considering the long history of violence by separatist groups and other militants within Indian borders such a move is being cited as one which aims at strengthening security in the country.
Meanwhile the U.S. government is facing some intense scrutiny of its own after the publication of two reports by the Washington Post and the Guardian, which exposed a wide-reaching government surveillance program called PRISM.
President Obama then held a press conference to clarify that the program “does not apply to US citizens and it does not apply to people living in the United States”.
In India though there will undoubtedly be questions regarding the new system’s potential for abuse and how it infringes the rights and privacy of India’s citizens.