We missed this earlier.
The Government’s Central Monitoring System (CMS) is already live in Delhi, New Delhi and Mumbai, according to Minister for Communications & IT, Ravi Shankar Prasad. Answering a query on 4 May, Prasad told the Lok Sabha that CMS will be set up in a phased manner to “automate the process of lawful interception and monitoring of mobile phones, landlines and the internet in the country.”
He added that the technology development and pilot trials have already been completed, and the Centre Monitoring Centre (CMC) at Delhi, Regional Monitoring Center (RMC) at New Delhi and Mumbai have been operationalised, without giving a timeline.
In December last year, Prasad said that CMS was expected to be launched by March 2016, and would be progressively operationalised. But it seems that the government has already conducted its pilot. For more details on CMS read: Indian Government Plans Digital Central Monitoring System.
From the archives: Moving Towards A Surveillance State – CIS India
Prasad elaborated on the aims and objective of CMS:
– Electronic provisioning of phone numbers by government agencies without manual intervention from Telecom Service Providers (TSPs) on a secure network.
– Secure flow of intercepted communication in near real time between law enforcement and TSPs on a secure and dedicated CMS network.
– Central and regional centres to help Centre and State law enforcement in lawful interception and monitoring with respect to national security and allied matters.
– Research and development in fields related to CMS for continuous upgradation.
MediaNama has pointed out before that the CMS is in line with what Milind Deora, former Minister of State for IT, said when asked about CMS, privacy and surveillance a few years ago. The government has changed, but what was being done then is still being done. We know that the same government tried to defend Section 66A of the IT Act in court, which was eventually declared unconstitutional, and the Attorney General of the Union of India argued for privacy in one case (where there was citizen backlash) and against it in another.
Which brings us to the question of whether the citizens of India can expect the government to respect the privacy of its citizens, or whether the government operates on the basis of certain principles, or is everything situational and circumstantial. In our opinion, all instances of surveillance must be backed by a court order, and be for a limited timeframe. Continuous monitoring of citizens, and the creation of a surveillance state, is dangerous for democracies. Also, the CMS only allows the government to surveil citizens without the knowledge of entities like telecom operators. It doesn’t prevent the telecom operators from snooping on them.
NATGRID costs: Note that in March, in a written reply to the Lok Sabha, the ministry of home affairs stated that the expenditure for the ambitious intelligence gathering project National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) stood at Rs 49.5 crore for the year 2015-16 (up to January 31, 2016).
– Govt should protect citizens from surveillance instead of collecting data – Dr Gus Hosein & Dr Edgar Whitley Reddit AMA
– Congress minister who put surveillance system in place warns against its ‘lawful but malicious’ use – Scroll.in
– An overview of India’s cyber security agencies here.
The question and the statement (source pdf)
GOVERNMENT OF INDIA
MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY
DEPARTMENT OF TELECOMMUNICATIONS
UNSTARRED QUESTION NO.1714
TO BE ANSWERED ON 4 TH MAY, 2016
CENTRAL MONITORING SYSTEM
†1714. SHRI ARVIND SAWANT:
SHRI KRUPAL BALAJI TUMANE:
SHRIMATI BHAVANA PUNDALIKRAO GAWALI PATIL:
Will the Minister of COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY
be pleased to state:
(a) whether the Government has operationalised Central Monitoring System
(CMS) to intercept communication on mobile phones, landlines and internet across
(b) if so, the details along with the aims and objectives thereof;
(c) if not, the reasons for delay; and
(d) the time by which it is likely to be made operationalised?
THE MINISTER OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY
(SHRI RAVI SHANKAR PRASAD)
(a) to (d) Madam, Government has decided to set up the Centralized Monitoring
System (CMS) in a phased manner to automate the process of lawful interception and
monitoring of mobile phones, landlines and the internet in the country. The phase
related with Technology development and Pilot trials of the CMS have been
completed. The Centre Monitoring Centre (CMC) at Delhi, Regional Monitoring Center
(RMC) at New Delhi and Mumbai has been operationalised and other RMC in License
Service Area, under CMS project, across the country are progressively being
operationalised in a phased manner. The aims and objective of the CMS are as
(i) Electronic Provisioning of target number by a Government agency without
any manual intervention from Telecom Service Providers (TSPs) on a
secured network, thus enhancing the secrecy level and quick provisioning of
(ii) Secure flow of intercepted communication on near real time basis between
Law Enforcement Agency (LEA) and Telecom Service Providers (TSP) on
secured and dedicated CMS network.
(iii) Central and Regional Centers which will help Central and State level Law
Enforcement Agencies in lawful Interception and Monitoring in serious
desirable cases of National Security and allied matters.
(iv) Research and Development (R&D) in related fields for continuous up
gradation of the CMS.