back to article India introduces Central Monitoring System

Privacy advocates are up in arms after the Indian government began quietly rolling out a Rs.4 billion(£47.8m) Central Monitoring System (CMS) designed to give the authorities sweeping access to citizens’ phone calls and internet comms in the name of national security. The scheme is initially thought to have been conceived as a …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    None too surprising

    The Indian government has been getting twitchy fingers about comms surveillance for a long time, but like everything governmental in India it takes its time to work up a full head of steam but changes tend to be sweeping. The attacks on Mumbai and the Parliament are presumably the main public justification, but the always touchy subject of 'offending' political, social or religious sensibilities is probably the real driving force - taking a hammer to someone's knuckles over some perceived affront to a deity/minorities/women/a famous politician/the RSS is virtually a national pastime - just ask poor old M.F Husain; a couple of iffy sketches and you get to live your life in exile, with death threats couched in terms of 'communal anger'. A look at the Tehelka case also sheds a good deal of light on what they're likely to use this for.

    India went to war with Blackberry a couple of years ago over access to BES data, but they were already warming up 10 years ago with government run ISPs like BSNL blocking protocols (usually VOIP) left right and centre for reasons that wobbled erratically between national security and commercial protectionism. And of course Tehelka.

    The one comforting thing is that if the UK or Australia's politicians are total numpties when it comes to understanding tech and the limitations of filtering/surveillance, India's - with entirely honourable exceptions - are a class apart. The chances of actually getting any of this to work in a meaningful way are probably close to zero, although a few Twitter using, lesser known M.F. Husain wannabe's will probably have their sensitive digits introduced to Impact Therapy in the name of that most delicate of flowers, communal harmony, and it's odd bedfellow, political corruption.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    how come then the UK system is so expensive?

    The India network must be bigger too.

    Eventually, it will be like a few years ago where only a few people (radio hams in the past) with official licences will be able to communicate free from mandated monitoring.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not much to crow about

    I note that the UK scored worse than the Philippines and is 5 points aways from being only 'partially free' itself.

    And likely the Communications Data Bill, if it or a future re-branding ever came to fruition, would push us over the edge.

  4. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Eventually (in a few centuries maybe) all governements will realize this is *not* a solution

    I've had some good news and I'm feeling positive.

    Does anyone think that figure £47m for a nation that big seems astonishingly low?

    I wonder who got bunged for the business?

    1. hplasm
      Big Brother

      Re: Eventually (in a few centuries maybe) all governements will realize this is *not* a solution

      In India, manpower is still relatively cheap- 250,000 people with headphones on in a call centre could probably do this for £47m... but the annual pencil and notepad bill would be ever increasing, together with the cost of filing cabinets.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Eventually (in a few centuries maybe) all governements will realize this is *not* a solution

      It's so cheap because the work's been offshored?

      E.g. Calls are recorded on Digital Audio Tape cassette, emails are printed out, and then they are all put on a weekly containership to Belfast or similar high unemployment low wage area (most UK places well outside the M25 would qualify).

      On arrival, after sitting in storage for a few days, maybe up to a month or two when "we are experiencing exceptionally high call volumes but your private data is important to us", the incoming items are processed and details are manually entered into a spreadsheet by "interns" who have been volunteered for the work on pain of losing what little state benefits were still available.

      Meets the agreed spec, doesn't it?

  5. Crisp

    Real Criminals Use Encryption

    This system is only ever going to be successful against low hanging fruit.

    Unfortunately, all the dangerous people will be able to proceed with absolute security knowing that law enforcement efforts are being directed elsewhere.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Real Criminals Use Encryption

      In India, Real Criminals use hard cash, usually in substantial, lavishly appointed briefcases. Not only does it keep your data perfectly safe, but it stops anyone even asking to see it, nicely or otherwise.

    2. Christian Berger

      It's not about criminals

      In Germany that kind of data is mostly used against file sharers and against journalists. There was one case where a telephone company had a leak and used the call data to try find out where the leak was.

      As many people already pointed out, it's not a good tool against criminals, but it's a good tool to find all those little punishable things. If you dislike a person, you can pull up their call record and find out what they did.

      The other thing those systems are good for is to put a certain kind of oppression on people. You see some police person committing a crime? You want to call you local reporter? Do you really want information about such communications be in the hands of the police?

      Or imagine you want to form an opposition party, perhaps an underground one because your government has already become quite oppressive? Guess what, exactly the same tools which are designed to track terrorist networks can be used to track opposition parties.

      You probably now might say your government would _never_ do such a thing. What happens if your government gets replaced? During the Holocaust there was an extremely high rate of killed Jews in the Netherlands. Why? Because there was a census there was a "harmless" little question called "religion". The census data was available on punch cards so when the Nazis went in they could just plop in the census stack into a tabulator to get a neatly printed list of addresses of Jews. They could even get it sorted by address for more efficient ethical cleansing. Just because your current government don't do something, the next one won't do as well.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    re: India introduces Central Monitoring System

    Who sold them the surveillance technology?

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