Coming soon for Modi govt: No Gmail or Yahoo for official work

Prime Minister Narendra Modi might have asked his ministers to use Facebook and Twitter to reach out to the masses but when it comes to official communication, ministers and bureaucrats could soon be stopped from using Gmail, Yahoo or any other email provider which has servers outside India.

According to a Hindustan Times report "a new draft email policy by the National Informatics Centre" states that for all government services, officials and ministers must rely on the NIC email and that they can't even forward email from this id to their personal email ids.

A PTI report points out that a proposal to this effect is being moved by Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY) for Cabinet approval by month-end, sources said. Government communication, barring those of Ministry of Defence and External Affairs, will be done using the platform of the National Informatics Centre (NIC), they added.

While the Defence Ministry has its own separate secure email server, the External Affairs too may follow suit. The move comes amid concerns about rising cybercrime and hacking incidents.

The government is expected to route official communication through the National Informatics Centre's (NIC) email service. DeitY has drafted the policy on use of email for government offices and departments and views and comments of ministries concerned are being taken on this, sources said.

 Coming soon for Modi govt: No Gmail or Yahoo for official work

A screen grab of Gmail. Reuters

Sources said the policy seeks to protect large amount of critical government data and aims to make it mandatory for government offices to communicate only on nic.in platform, not on commercial email services Gmail, Yahoo!, Hotmail, etc.

The policy is expected to cover about 5-6 lakh Central and state government employees for using the email service provided by NIC, they added.

To ensure smooth working of the NIC platform, DeitY will soon require about Rs 4-5 crore to ramp up NIC infrastructure. Besides, a total investment of around Rs 50-100 crore would be required for full operationability of the policy, including integrating emails with cloud so that official data can be saved on a cloud platform and can then be easily shared with the concerned government ministries and departments.

The recent concern over the use of email service that is hosted by companies with servers outside India is also due to the revelations of Edward Snowden who had exposed the level of Internet snooping that was being carried out by USA's National Security Agency (NSA).

A Guardian report had shown that NSA also had a data-mining tool, called Boundless Informant, which gave details and even maps by country of the voluminous amount of information it collected from computer and telephone networks in a particular country. The report had shown that of India was the fifth most-spied upon country by the US and that the US collected 6.3 billion pieces of computer data from India each year.

More recently a Washington Post report had shown that NSA was also spying on BJP. While the documents listed the BJP as one of the organisations for which NSA got the required certification approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) it's not clear if the spying was actually carried out. NSA needs approval from FISA to spy on entities outside the US. The orders to spy on BJP were given in 2010, just four months before Obama's visit to India.

The US allegedly allowed the National Security Agency (NSA) to spy on six non-US political parties, including the BJP, Snowden had claimed, based on leaked top-secret documents.

At the time of the report, BJP's IT cell head Arvind Gupta had said, "It is matter of concern because it deals with interfering in the democratic process of a sovereign nation." India had also registered a strong protest on the issue.

In light of the NSA revelations, it's hardly surprising that the government would not be too happy with it's employees using Gmail or Yahoo for official communication. It remains to be seen how it will be enforced in government offices.

With inputs from PTI

Updated Date: Sep 15, 2014 09:23:57 IST