The conversation around data security and privacy has been gaining momentum in the past few years, especially with concerns about data leaks. On Friday, however, news of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) allowing ten surveillance and intelligence agencies to snoop on and monitor any computer came to light.
According to an MHA order, a copy of which was shared on Twitter by news agency ANI, ten agencies are now authorised to intercept, monitor and decrypt any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer resource under the Information Technology Act, 2000.
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
These agencies that are now authorised to have surveillance on your information and data are the Intelligence Bureau, Narcotics Control Bureau, Enforcement Directorate, Central Board of Direct Taxes, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Central Bureau of Investigation, National Investigation Agency, Cabinet Secretariat (RAW), Directorate of Signal Intelligence (for service areas of Jammu & Kashmir, North-east and Assam only) and the Commissioner of Police, Delhi.
The order is facilitated under sub-section 1 of the section 69 of the IT Act, read with rule 4 of the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Interception, Monitoring and Decryption of Information) Rules, 2009. The former allows the authorities to decrypt information if it is in “the interest of the sovereignty or integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States or public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognisable offence, for reasons to be recorded in writing, by order, direct any agency of the Government to intercept any information transmitted through any computer resource.” The latter states that a competent authority can authorise a government agency to “intercept, monitor or decrypt information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer resource” for the purposes as specified under sub-section 1 of section 69 of the IT Act, 2000.
The move has drawn criticism, with many calling it dangerous, and saying that this could be the beginning of further surveillance on citizens by the government.
Days are not far when this government will force us to install CCTV in our bedrooms so that they can monitor all our activities and statements. We are quickly moving towards becoming North Korea in modi regime.— HumanGotra (@patriotbutnotn1) December 21, 2018
Is this Govt. following the Nazi’s ruling practices!! The practice that Adolf Hitler used to control the German people, like spying, intimidation and imprisonment !!— Shamyak (@Shmyak13) December 21, 2018
Draconian move by #ModiRegime as #2019Elections approaches. Weaponisation of #DigitalIndia is a ‘clutching at power’ move by an insecure government heralding #emergency in 21st century. #RightToPrivacy #InfoSec #DataSecurity #DataPrivacy @InternetFreedom @Snowden https://t.co/jL3NawzIzl— ALTNXT (@altnxt_) December 21, 2018
Very strange. Among state police forces , only Delhi Police has been given the special privilege of snooping . Why?! pic.twitter.com/gB1J2g1YMR— bhavatosh singh (@bhavatoshsingh) December 21, 2018
It is extremely worrisome that an elected government tries again and again to snoop on its own people. What is Modi government trying to make as new India- a surveillance state? https://t.co/MVQaFBmD3J— Ashok Gehlot (@ashokgehlot51) December 21, 2018
This is a gross violation of Supreme Court judgements including Shreya Singhal .This is void for vagueness since the expression "any information" could cover anything from our facebook profiles to our whatsapp messages ,to twetter ,it is being challenged as surveillance https://t.co/RJYFqBvzmB— indira jaising (@IJaising) December 21, 2018
The government's move is similar to the surveillance system of Communist Party of China— (@zigishu9ff) December 21, 2018
Are we going towards dictator state where everything will be under scanner?Welcome all to #NewIndia. Hope all political parties gave the consent to such draconian order @RahulGandhi @MamataOfficial @yadavakhilesh @mkstalin @AUThackeray @ncbn. Wat shall we call ourselves, SLAVES!— SAURAV KUMAR (@speak2saurav) December 21, 2018
In a thread, the Internet Freedom Foundation called the move unconstitutional and a breach of the Right to Privacy judgment as well.
2. Through the day we will working with volunteers and lawyers to post and amplify analysis and provide context.— Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) (@internetfreedom) December 21, 2018
3. To us this order is unconstitutional and in breach of the telephone tapping guidelines, the Privacy Judgement and the Aadhaar judgement. #SaveOurPrivacy
6. The #SaveOurPrivacy campaign has the support of 10,600 people + 27 organisations puts forth a model law, “Indian Privacy Code”, which includes survelliance reform.— Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) (@internetfreedom) December 21, 2018
Positive change will not happen till we all demand it. Shout out on social media today #SaveOurPrivacy pic.twitter.com/OBZJsqeDvm
The government’s move was also criticised by political leaders such as AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi. “George Orwell’s Big Brother is here & welcome to 1984,” he tweeted.
Modi has used a simple Government Order to permit our national agencies to snoop on our communications.— Asaduddin Owaisi (@asadowaisi) December 20, 2018
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
Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram as well as Congress party Rajya Sabha member Ahmed Patel also condemned the order. Chidambaram told India TV that a state snooping on computers is an Orwellian state. Ahmed Patel, meanwhile, called the power given to the agencies worrisome and cautioned against misuse.
However, some people said that this would not make a difference to those who had nothing to hide, and was good for national security reasons.
Good for keeping eye on terror related activities.— Alap (@alap030193) December 21, 2018
MHA's snooping order is good for National security. These 10 agencies are being empowered to access on all Computers.— Manindra Nath Banerjee (@ManindraNathBa1) December 21, 2018
Servilence is necessary for the safety & security.
good for so many issues frca, terror and anti social elements.— S.Anand (@smk_anand) December 21, 2018
Defends the MHA order. I have nothing to lose, nothing to hide, no illegal activity. Open invitation to monitor me.— Nishit Desai (@desainishit) December 21, 2018