Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Indian Research And Analysis Wing (RAW) Granted E-Surveillance Powers

Indian government is in controversies these days. Controversial functions like e-surveillance in India, websites blocking in India, Internet censorship in India, etc are performed by Indian government and its agencies without any procedural and constitutional safeguards and without any constitutionally sound legal framework supporting these functions.

India does not have a constitutionally sound lawful interception law. Phone tapping in India is still done in an unconstitutional manner and at times by private individuals as well. Further surveillance of Internet traffic in India is now openly acknowledged by Indian government.

Recently Internet intermediaries in India were asked to pre screen contents before they are posted on their platforms by the account holders. Before that Yahoo took Indian government to court over e-surveillance. In its petition, Yahoo has raised questions on the right to privacy of a company that stores such sensitive data and to what extent authorities can coerce it to part with the information considered necessary to either track terror perpetrators or thwart future attacks.

The intelligence infrastructure of India has become synonymous for non accountability and mess. There is neither any parliamentary oversight nor and transparency and accountability of the working of Intelligence Agencies of India. Intelligence infrastructure of India needs rejuvenation keeping in mind the constitutional obligations. As on date, intelligence gathering in India is performed unconstitutionally.

Among all these controversial issues, now the Ministry of Home Affairs has added and notified the intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) in the list of eight agencies to intercept phone calls, e-mails and data communications. This would give RAW a cover for intercepting phone calls, e-mails and voice and data communication domestically.

RAW would not be able to deploy its communication interception equipment at international gateways to snoop on all forms of data, be it international telephony emanating from India, or any form of electronic data including e-mails. However, this notification has failed to mention how such interceptions would be in conformity with civil liberties protection in Indian cyberspace.