Saturday, 22 June 2013

Who’s watching the watchers?

Discover India’s version of Prism and its implication on mass

Seems like - one of the best kept secrets by the USA has finally been revealed (hoping there is more to come - do I get arrested for saying this?). The secret National Security Agency (NSA) program called PRISM allows US government to eavesdrop on any user communication taking place over the internet. This crucial piece of information was allegedly leaked by Edward Snowden, a former CIA employee. The information can be sourced from your emails, Facebook, YouTube, Skype, Google searches, bank transfers; thus any electronic data shared is under surveillance.

Delving a little deeper into Prism - the programme has been running since 2007 and now it is generating raw material for NSA. Under the Bush administration lawyers got Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to issue surveillance orders for gathering data. The focus is to collect information on foreign communication traffic, that is, any overseas communication to another oversea location.

For more details click - How Prism may work?

Currently in US, in the South of Utah there is a 1,100,000 square feet facility being built to support the most expensive secret. The computers here can store data from as long as a decade. This project will cost approximately $2 billion and will cost $40 million a year to keep the servers cool. Mobile phones, social networking and cloud computing may have come as a boon to us but they definitely have a dark side which can no longer be ignored.
Shifting the focus to India – since this April we also have a system in place which is called Centralised Monitoring System (CMS); the full details to which remain unclear. This is a Prism-like project which allows our government to snoop around on phones, chats, emails, browsing history and mobiles. The funny part is that even our parliament did not get a chance to debate on it.

Union Communications Minister Milind Deora, recently said that it only intercepts phone and internet data lawfully and no telecom service provider permission is required for it. He wasn't of the view that this was invasion of privacy but a step to protect the individuals from private companies.

Google Transparency Report is an initiative from Google to maximize the transparency of the information which is related to their tools and services. In the second half, from July to December 2012, India has made 2,431 requests to Google for user data. You will be amazed to know that this is the highest number of requests in the world after USA.

The point to be raised here is complete absence of laws of privacy. Who takes care of individual liberty? These internet monitoring systems are very dicey due to lack of public accountability. Do country security issues or individual privacy not concern us? So the question is that if you do not have anything criminal to hide, what do you have to worry about?

According to Section 124A of Indian Penal Court, “whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the Government established by law in India shall be punished with imprisonment for life, to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years to which fine may be added.”

So the next time I utter anything that shows my feeling of dissatisfaction towards the government I can be sentenced to life imprisonment. Unless we find a way to communicate with each other just by thinking/minds alone I think we better watch out what we speak, write or comment on.

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