India will reportedly ban use of US e-mail services

India will reportedly ban use of US e-mail services

Summary: The government is said to be planning a formal notification to employees banning them from using e-mail providers with servers in the U.S. such as Gmail, to increase the security of confidential government information.

The Indian government will ask employees to stop using e-mails whose servers reside in the U.S. to secure confidential government information.

The Indian government will reportedly ask all its employees to stop using Gmail for communication purposes to increase the security of confidential government information, amid revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden on cyberspying by the U.S.

The Times of India reported on Friday, citing a senior official in the ministry of communications and information technology, that the government plans to send a formal notification to about 500,000 employees, banning them from e-mail service providers such as Gmail, which have their servers in the U.S.

The employees would instead have to use official e-mail services by India's National Informatics Center (NIC), J. Satyanarayana, secretary in the department of electronics and information technology, said in the report.

"Gmail data of Indian users resides in other countries as the servers are located outside. Currently, we are looking to address this in the government domain, where there are large amounts of critical data," Satyanarayana said.

However, a spokesperson from Google India said the company has not been informed about the ban, and cannot confirm on speculation. "Nothing is documented so far, so for us, it is still speculation," the search giant said.

The move comes after slides leaked from an NSA presentation in mid-June, revealing a program called PRISM, which allegedly sifted user data from U.S. Web companies, and raised concerns of a close relationship between those companies and the NSA, though both sides have denied the claims.

This also raised concerns among Asian governments whose e-mails may also be vulnerable to PRISM as some officials used e-mail services run by Yahoo or Gmail as their ministries lacked proper IT infrastructure or due to personal preferences.

Last week, India's IT minister Kapil Sibal unveiled a policy which requires all government officials living abroad to use NIC servers directly linked to a server in India, while accessing government e-mail services, according to a separate report on The Times of India. Sibal however, said there has not been evidence of the U.S. accessing Internet data from India.

Topics: Security, Government Asia, India

Ellyne Phneah

About Ellyne Phneah

Elly grew up on the adrenaline of crime fiction and it spurred her interest in cybercrime, privacy and the terror on the dark side of IT. At ZDNet Asia, she has made it her mission to warn readers of upcoming security threats, while also covering other tech issues.

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  • Google should sue the USA now for destroying it's enterprise....

    Google should sue the USA now for destroying it's enterprise....
    Fascistic USA via NSA starts working

    Our change the place of servers......into every country
    • Re Google suing US

      The main problem with that is that under the U.S. legal system if everybody is affected pretty much the same way by a government action, specific individuals or organizations can't sue. For instance, there is some federal law (I think it's in the Constitution but I'm not sure) saying someone with a military commission can't be a member of Congress. Several Representatives have held commissions while in Congress. A number of years ago a group of political activists sued. The court said that because everyone is affected, they could not show that they themselves suffered any harm that was different from the general public, therefore they lacked "legal standing". "Standing" means, "this affects MY legal interests specifically, to the point where I should be allowed legal redress." If EVERYONE is affected, then no one has standing.
      • Not Quite

        The issue was standing that means a person affected by the law may sue but one who is not may not. A member of Congress denied a commission b/c he is a member or a member who is and told he had to resign one or the other would have standing.

        The Writ of Mandamus is an application to the court asking it to require the government do something it is required to do that affects the applicant. The order requires the government to do something but not what to do and therefore the government could have required all Congresspersons to resign their commissions or to enact legislation to permit holding the commission.

        The prohibition is a statutory prohibition, not in the Constitution. It was enacted to reinforce the concept that the military should not be involved in politics. The Congrsspersons holding commissions generally are on the inactive officer list, not on active duty or a reservist but in the case of war could be called to duty. Most officers who leave the military are on the list until 65 upon resigning from the service.

        During WWII many officers released after WWI as a result of downsizing were recalled as a result of this system.
      • Crappy Logic

        That is just plain Crappy Logic, but that is to be expected from the US legal system. The REAL Logic = "If EVERYONE is affected then EVERYONE has standing". (the whole populace) The Constitution is not just intended for the few.
    • If they place servers everywhere in the world

      that still can be parsed and in addition to Google and US Government looking into the emails, now rest of the world Governments can spy on everyone in the world and that will be idiotic.
      Ram U
    • Oh jeez!

      You are kidding, right?
      Google is responsible for securing their own servers. If they think someone [and not just the NSA] got into their servers, who is responsible for securing their servers because they did a crappy job in doing so.
      You don't see them taking a hacker group to court for breaking into their servers [I'm sure it has happened].
      "Our change the place of servers......into every country" Huh? English please.
      If Google hasn't started the legal proceedings against the US government by now it's because they got nothing legally.
  • I guess they don't realize Google already parses Gmail

    They can try some other service, but let's not kid ourselves, no ad-based webmail service is secure.
    • Bingo

      This is one of the times we both agree on one thing.
      Ram U
    • secure from google or NSA?

      If I use something like gmail, I understand google can read my email. If I am planning my illegal activities, I wouldn't use my gmail account - NSA can request my info. Everyone knows how google works.

      This is the same situation with outlook, etc. If you think mail services are any less readable by the provider because they are not currently ad supported, you would be wrong.

      No one expects such mail services to be secure from the mail provider itself. So, I'm actually surprised any foreign governments would allow use of google, yahoo, outlook ,etc in the first place.

      When you use something like the lavabit email, the idea is its encrypted and unreadable by lavabit itself. This is where I would do my illegal activities, even though there was questions about it because lavabit itself could be forced to rewrite its source code to get your keys, in theory. This is one reason he decided to cease operations.
    • Other Service???

      This is their Gov'ment. How messed up is it when instead of emailing something like Sabhash@DOE&IT.INDIA.GOV or whatever, you had to acquire and maintain everyone's address on your own. And it can't be something simple like, it would be more like No central address book, counting on the individual to keep their address current, and their emails virus free. Who cares if they use gmail for personal junk. Fire the ones that can't follow the rules.
      Daniel Bissell
  • Employees of any organization....

    ...should not be using e-mail services like GMAIL to conduct business, unless it is sanctioned for use by the organization. My company (in the US) does not allow us to use any personal e-mail services for business purposes. They simply block the sites for use within our network. I don't see what the Indian government is doing to be any different. The Indian government is saying do not use GMAIL, etc in conducting government business and they must use the internal e-mail service provided to them. This is really not news that is specific to PRISM. The question is why they allowed this in the first place, well before PRISM?
  • I have a better idea

    How about all companies in the U. S. stop doing business with Indian companies?
    • Don't be...

      ...stupid. Why don't we just stopping doing business with a country with 20% of the world's population? Maybe we should stopping doing business with China while we are at it!!!

      This article's title is poorly wording. It should say "Indian Government to prevent employees from using external e-mail services (like GMAIL) in the wake of PRISM." The way the title is worded, it lead me to initially believe that India was to block US email services to their entire population, which is not the case. This only impacts less than 0.5% of the Indian (1B+) population.
      • Hmmmm

        Doubt if the US cares about 20% of the world's population because their weekly wages are mostly way below the US wages. Why do you think Apple and others are [trying to] sell "base" model phones in India? They can't afford the regular models [except the elite and the fanboys and fangurls who got to have the latest and greatest].
  • Global free market? Protectionism?

    We certainly don't and can't have both, in any sense of the word.
  • The end of the internet.

    I see a situation where private networks take over and offer security without public access. Eventually the public internet becomes a second rate service, full of flaws, with ever dwindling support.
  • India will reportedly ban use of US e-mail services

    (For government employees).

    Good. Hypocrites.

    Hurt Yahoo, Google, MS, et al. for this and maybe they will lobby to stop it instead of installing back doors and taking tax payers money as compensation while publicly protesting how much they would like to be able to tell us how much the NSA uses them to spy on us.
    Beast Of Bodmin
    • Errr

      Backdoors? Got any proof?
  • Worst example of Misleading Heading / Title - India not banning gmail etc.

    Dear Ellyne Phneah, Either you do not know English well or you don't understand what you write. In any case I have never seen a worse example of misleading Heading/Title, which gives the wrong impression that India is banning the use of Gmail or any such US based email services, while the truth is far from it, if you just care to read what you yourself wrote in the very entro of the report and in subsequent paragraph.
    In fact India government has taken a long over due action, prohibiting the Government staff to stop using public email services like Gmail, yahoo etc for official purpose. So many corrupt or careless officials were misusing these means of communication to bypass official scrutiny. It was like an official of a big corporate house communicating with public male for official works. As an Indian citizen I was saddened to see such misleading title in this esteemed news portal and the comments of many creeps and wackos who start saying things without reading or understanding right point.
    I would appreciate if you publish an Errata to clear this point to general public.