More than a dozen Indian government agencies are tracking Clubhouse chat room activities, The Hindu reported on Wednesday. It is not clear what the reasons behind this are.
The agencies identified in the report are Intelligence Bureau (IB), Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), National Investigation Agency (NIA), Enforcement Directorate (ED), Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), and Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT). These agencies have been authorized “to track the rooms scheduled by clubs that is generating excitement or individual or group chats in open or closed rooms in real-time,” the report stated.
The invite-only audio chat room app Clubhouse, which launched last March, gained popularity during the pandemic but it was initially available only on iOS. The Android version of the platform went live across the globe, including in India, on May 21, giving it another surge in popularity.
Actions authorized by IT Act
These agencies have been authorized to carry out their prying activities by Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Interception, Monitoring and Decryption of Information) Rules, 2009, under sub-section (1) Section 69 of the Information Technology Act, 2000, the report stated.
According to these rules, the Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs may “authorise an agency of the Government to intercept, monitor or decrypt information generated, transmitted received or stored in any computer resource for the purpose specified in sub-section (1) of section 69 of the Act.”
The purposes specified in sub-section (1) of section 69 of the Act are the “interest of the sovereignty or integrity of India, defence of India, security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States or public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence relating to above or for investigation of any offence.”
Govt actions may violate Clubhouse Terms of Service
The government’s activities may be in violation of Clubhouse’s Terms of Service, particularly the following ones that prohibit users to:
- “impersonate any person or entity, or falsely state or otherwise misrepresent your affiliation with a person or entity”
- “obtain or attempt to access or otherwise obtain any materials or information through any means not intentionally made available or provided for through the Service.”
- “record any portion of a conversation without the expressed consent of all of the speakers involved”