tech2 News StaffDec 21, 2018 14:04:29 IST
The government has reportedly authorised 10 central agencies which will have the ability to access any computer in matters of national importance.
According to ANI, the 10 agencies which have been authorised will be able to intercept, monitor and decrypt any "information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer."
The agencies include the following — The Intelligence Bureau, Narcotics Control Bureau, National Investigation Agency, Enforcement Directorate, Central Board of Direct Taxes, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Central Bureau of Investigation. Cabinet Secretariat (R&AW), Directorate of Signal Intelligence (For service areas of Jammu & Kashmir, North-East and Assam only) and Commissioner of Police, Delhi.
The authorisation has been given under Section 69 of the Information Technology Act, 2000. It allows the government to direct any agency in the interest of the sovereignty, defence of India and security of the state among other reasons.
MHA: Competent authority hereby authorizes the following security and intelligence agencies (in attached statement) for purposes of interception, monitoring and decryption of any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer resource under the said act pic.twitter.com/3oH9e7vv6T
— ANI (@ANI) December 21, 2018
What does the MHA notification mean?
According to the order, the aforementioned agencies can gain access to a person's computer and the person will have to provide access and technical assistance to the agencies. If they fail, there will be a punishment of up to seven years. Home secretary Rajiv Gauba has issued the order.
This basically gives the 10 agencies mentioned in the notification, complete authority to snoop on any data on computers owned by individuals who are under the scanner of these agencies.
According to Section 69(1) of the Information Technology Act, 2000, central or state governments allow agencies to intercept, monitor or decrypt any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer resource. As per the section, the government can direct any agency to do this if it finds it necessary in the "interest of the sovereignty or integrity of India, defence of India, security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states or public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence relating to above or for investigation of any offence."
Backlash against the notification
The move hasn't been received well by politicians, especially those critical of BJP-led central government's policies. West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee tweeted:
Blanket surveillance is bad in law
— Mamata Banerjee (@MamataOfficial) December 21, 2018
Telangana MP Asaduddin Owaisi criticised it and mocked BJP’s slogan "Ghar Ghar Modi." "Modi has used a simple Government Order to permit our national agencies to snoop on our communications. Who knew that this is what they meant when they said ‘ghar ghar Modi," he said in a tweet comparing the order to George Orwell's 1984.
Modi has used a simple Government Order to permit our national agencies to snoop on our communications.
Who knew that this is what they meant when they said ‘ghar ghar Modi’. George Orwell’s Big Brother is here & welcome to 1984. pic.twitter.com/DrjQkdkBKh — Asaduddin Owaisi (@asadowaisi) December 20, 2018
The former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir Omar Abdullah commented saying that the government was imitating North Korea.
We have the North Korean news channels & now we have the North Korean police state. Imitation, as they say, is the sincerest form of flattery. https://t.co/LIl3QV8yy5
— Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) December 21, 2018
Sitaram Yechury of the Communist Party of India called the move unconstitutional.
Why is every Indian being treated like a criminal? This order by a govt wanting to snoop on every citizen is unconstitutional and in breach of the telephone tapping guidelines, the Privacy Judgement and the Aadhaar judgement. https://t.co/vJXs6aycP0 — Sitaram Yechury (@SitaramYechury) December 21, 2018
Congress leader Ahmed Patel told ANI that this notification gives sweeping powers to agencies to snoop phone calls and computers without any checks and balances in place. "This is extremely worrisome. This is likely to be misused," said Patel.