Data safety
Ten agencies are now authorised to intercept, monitor and decrypt any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer resource.
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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.

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.

In a thread, the Internet Freedom Foundation called the move unconstitutional and a breach of the Right to Privacy judgment as well.

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.

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.