The Indian Government is apparently considering banning US based email providers including Google’s Gmail service, according to a report by The Economic Times, citing a senior official in the ministry of communications and information technology.

The report also adds that the government is planning to send a formal notification to all its employees to switch from these email services to official email service provided by India’s National Informatics Centre. Google India spokesperson denied to the publication that they have received any official communication regarding the ban.

Prism fallout

This move comes after the revelation of spying operations by the US National Security Agency (NSA) by tapping into servers of Internet companies such as Google, Facebook, etc. It should be noted that Gmail data servers for Indian users are not located in India  and hence it becomes difficult for the Indian government to control over the spying. The government believes that using Gmail like service by government officials for official communication gives the US government access to critical communication. It’s never a good idea to be exposed to other government for confidential messages.

Government officials are reported to use third party email service instead of the official email service provided by the government for its ease of use. What the government needs to do is make it easier for government employees to step up email account on the email service provided by them. It will be difficult for the government to force its employees who already use third party email service as they will be used to the interface and for the difficulty employees face to setup their email account on official email service.

In June 2013, 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. In August 2013, the government had announced that it plans to come up with a new email policy to secure official government communication and to use NIC servers which are linked to a server in India for all Indian missions.

Note that according to a report by The Guardian, India was number 5 on the list of surveillance with 6.3 billion reports gathered from the country. By comparison, the US government gathered 13.5B from Pakistan, 12.7B from Jordan, and 7.6B from Egypt.

In July 2013, India’s Supreme Court said that it cannot pass any order against the US government for surveillance of Indian data because it has no jurisdiction over the US government. This was after Prof. S.N. Singh filed a Public Interest Litigation to initiate action against Internet companies that allowed US National Security Agency to access Internet from India under its PRISM program.

While the Indian government in now getting paranoid over the US spying operation, in April 2013 the Indian government began rolling out the Central Monitoring System (CMS) enabling government agencies to monitor and analyse all telecommunications and internet communications including telephone calls, email, text messages, MMS, fax communications on landlines, CDMA, video calls, GSM and 3G networks in the country. That said, Milind Deora, India’s Minister of State for IT thinks that the Central Monitoring System (CMS) “is a good tool”