Amid the ongoing debate on Net Neutrality and regulating Internet services in India, the government has said that it has no plans yet to get servers of popular social networking sites and Internet services within the country and that security and law enforcement agencies have difficulty with encrypted communication services, minister of communications and information technology Ravi Shankar Prasad said in a written reply to the Lok Sabha.
Responding to a question (pdf) raised by members of Parliament Dr. Sanjay Jaiswal and C Gopalkrishnan, Prasad said that security agencies are able to intercept the encrypted communication services through facilities provided by telecom operators, though the government is not able to decrypt the messages to a readable format as per international relationships, legal and regulatory policy and commercial and security requirements.
In March, telecom regulator TRAI in its consultation paper on regulatory framework for Internet services had cited national security as a reason to license communication applications such as WhatsApp, Viber and Skype and called for lawful interception of messages and calls over them. As the debate on Net Neutrality progresses in the country, national security and lawful interception of Internet services has emerged as a point of contention among telecom operators.
Telecom companies on their part have been asking the government to regulate communication apps as they provide the same services as telecos and insist on same security policies be applied to them. More on that here and here. Reliance Jio, for example, in its comments to the TRAI paper said that communication services have adhere to the same set of security standards which includes hosting services from within India, verification and authentication of consumers, providing decryption keys to the Government and maintaining call detail record/ Internet protocol detail record (IPDR) for Internet including Internet Telephony Service for a minimum period of one year.
It’s also interesting to note that India also has a NSA-like surveillance programmes called Central Monitoring System and Netra where security agencies will be able to monitor voice traffic on services like Skype, Google Talk and others through this system.