Government snooping on e-mails, calls on the rise - The New Indian Express

Government snooping on e-mails, calls on the rise

Published: 27th November 2012 09:15 AM

Last Updated: 27th November 2012 09:15 AM

Eight law enforcement and intelligence agencies, authorised by the Centre to intercept telephone calls, are monitoring 10,490 phones across the country. These agencies are also screening 1,601 e-mail accounts of various users, on different platforms. The data recorded until September reveal that the number of e-mail accounts under the scanner has increased by 36 per cent.

Earlier, e-mail service provider ‘Google’, in its transparency report, had stated that it had received requests from the Indian Government for information on 2,319 users through official channels. Government had also asked  data on 3,467 users or accounts between January and June 2012. ‘Google’ in its report had stated that only 64 per cent of the total data requests were fully or partially complied with.

According to Supreme Court guidelines, the Union Home Secretary has to approve the agencies’ request for  monitoring and recording a phone call. This approval is valid only for two months, unless extension is granted in some rare cases. Guidelines also suggest that tapping must be restricted to specific targets and a review committee is responsible for ascertaining whether the tapping is in the interests of national security.

The high-level committee, which confirms orders issued by the Union Home Secretary, saw 1,915 fresh requests from the Intelligence Bureau (IB), 11 from the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and 492 from the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI). The committee comprises Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth, Telecom Secretary R Chandrasekhar and Law Secretary B A Agarwal.

The Committee, which met recently, cleared new requests for monitoring 876 e-mails by the IB and Signals Intelligence of the Army, an official note said. “Already, 725 e-mails were being monitored by the two agencies under the Indian Telegraph Act.”

Among the agencies, IB topped the chart in monitoring phone calls, by eavesdropping on about 5,500 phones. During the same month, Andhra Pradesh Police made 549 requests.

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