Ministry of Home Affairs authorises 10 agencies to intercept, monitor and decrypt data

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Photo by Jonathan Chng on Unsplash
Photo by Jonathan Chng on Unsplash

Through a notification by the home ministry, the government has permitted ten intelligence and investigative agencies including the Delhi Police to intercept, monitor and decrypt “any information” generated, received or stored in any computer.

“In exercise of the powers conferred by sub-section (1) of Section 69 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (21 of 2000) read with rule 4 of the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Interception, Monitoring and Decryption of Information) Rules, 2009, the Competent Authority hereby authorises the following Security and Intelligence Agencies for the purposes of interception, monitoring and decryption of any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer resource under the said Act,” read an order issued by Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba.

The ten agencies are Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Cabinet Secretary (RAW), Directorate of Signal Intelligence (for service areas of Jammu and Kashmir, Northeast and Assam only), Intelligence Bureau, National Investigation Agency (NIA), Enforcement Directorate (ED), Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Narcotics Control Board, Central Board of Direct Taxes and Commissioner of Police, Delhi.

The notification clarified that any subscriber, service provider or person responsible for any computer resource is bound to extend all facilities and technical assistance to these agencies.

In the case of refusal to cooperate by an individual or entity, punishment will include “seven years in jail and a fine”.

The order has come under attack from cyber security experts and political parties.

“It’s understandable why the Indian government thinks that this will help in reducing cybercrime and terrorism, and prove useful for investigations, however this is clearly not the right way to go for it – with violating citizens privacy. I would urge people to use strong full-disk encryption on their systems with tools such as FileVault and BitLocker, to ensure that their data is secure,” said Aditya Gupta, cybersecurity expert and CEO of Attify.

Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala tweeted: “This time, attack on privacy. Modi Govt mocks and flouts Fundamental ‘Right to Privacy’ with brazen impunity! Having lost elections, now [it] wants to scan/snoop [on] your computers? ‘Big Brother Syndrome’ is truly embedded in NDA’s DNA!,” tweeted Surjewala.

Addressing the media, Congress leader and former union minister Anand Sharma said the government’s move was unacceptable and the opposition will collectively raise the issue in Parliament.

“This is a very serious development, through this order the Modi government is turning India into a surveillance state.

“It is the ultimate assault on the fundamental right to privacy and is in direct conflict with the Supreme Court’s order, which held right to privacy as a fundamental right,” said Sharma.

Written with inputs from IANS.