India’s Home Ministry wants social networking sites monitored: the Department of Telecommunications has received a letter from the ministry to ensure “ensure effective monitoring of social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter in order to strengthen cyber security paraphernalia,” Milind Deora, Minister of State for Communication and IT told the Rajya Sabha. That, of course, is not it: earlier this year, current Telecom minister Kapil Sibal, had also passed the buck to the Home Ministry on the country’s draconian IT Rules; the scope of the Home Ministry’s monitoring of digital platforms is expected to grow.
As we had detailed earlier, there is a significant location monitoring component being included in its proposed communications monitoring system: Voice and Video Calls, SMS & MMS, GPRS and FAX communications on Landlines (PSTN), CDMA and GSM networks, apart from the ability to plot the information on a map to enable geographical analysis of the calls.
Much of this is being done through licensed telecom service providers, through which these services are used. As Deora told the Rajya Sabha: “The Telecom Service Providers provide facilities for lawful interception and monitoring of communication flowing through their network including communications from social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter, as per the terms and conditions of their licence agreements.”
The IT Rules also give the government the power (through intermediaries like telecom operators) to block any or all communications and/or website, if they deem fit, without any oversight (prevention of misuse) or identified recourse for the block. What about civil liberty, then?