Following the major leak of USA collecting 6.3 billion data from India in March 2013 through its National Security Agency (NSA)’s PRISM program, P.Rajeev, Member of Parliament has started a public petition asking Facebook, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft to reveal information on Indian data given to NSA.
PRISM program had accessed Indian data by tapping into the servers of companies such as Google, Facebook, Apple, Yahoo, Microsoft, for information including search history, the content of emails, file transfers and live chats. In June, following the leak, several Indian ISPs had asked the Indian Government to insist foreign Internet companies like Facebook and Google to setup local servers in India, in order to provide their respective services in the country.
Subsequently, it was also revealed that India was also in the list of 38 countries whose embassies and missions were defined as ‘targets’ and hence was under surveillance through ‘extensive range of spying methods’.
Recently, Salman Khurshid, India’s External Affairs Minister had defended the NSA surveillance stating that it is not actually snooping since the program did not access actual messages. After Khurshid’s statement, the government promised that it would take up the issue with U.S, according to The Hindu.
The Indian government’s response to the PRISM program is worrying, considering the launch of a similar surveillance program known as the Central Monitoring System (CMS) in India. The government is likely to install CMS in 10 out of 22 service areas in the country by the end of this year.
It is worth noting that the right to privacy is guaranteed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which India is also a state party. However, India has still not passed a privacy law.
PILs against Internet companies: The Supreme Court of India had agreed to have an urgent hearing of a Public Interest Litigation filed by Prof. S.N. Singh seeking to initiate action against Internet companies that allowed US National Security Agency to access Internet from India under its PRISM program. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear this case since it cannot pass any order against the US government for surveillance of Indian data because it has no jurisdiction over the US government.
This public petition by P.Rajeev to the Internet companies also comes at a time when Facebook and Google are already fighting a case, pertaining to safety measures in place for minors on their respective sites.
Last month, the Delhi High Court had asked Facebook and Google to file suggestions on how minors can be protected online in India, since they allow children above 13 years of age to open an online account, which was apparently in violation of the Indian Majority Act, the Indian Contract Act and the Information and Technology Act, as per a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by the former RSS leader K.N. Govindacharya.