India govt reportedly monitors Web activities, without ISP knowledge

Indian government said to have deployed Lawful Intercept and Monitoring systems to track Internet activities of citizens, separate from similar systems used by telcos in the government's Central Monitoring System project.
Written by Ellyne Phneah, Contributor
The Lawful Intercept and Monitoring system, reportedly installed by the government, is separate from similar systems currently used by local telcos.

The Indian government is reportedly carrying out Internet surveillance on its citizens, in contrast with the government's rules and notifications for ensuring communications privacy.

According to an investigation by Chennai-based publication The Hindu, Lawful Intercept and Monitoring (LIM) systems have been deployed by the country's Center for Development of Telematics (D-DOT) to monitor Internet traffic, e-mails, Web browsing, Skype and other Internet activities by Indian citizens.

The systems are fully owned and operated by the Indian government, unlike similar systems deployed by local Internet Service Providers (ISPs) which have to comply with Indian Telegraph Act and Rule 419(A) of the country's IT rules, the publication reported on Monday.

The paper also said in 2006, the government released "instructions for ensuring privacy of communications", which stated ISPs have to employ "nodal officers" to regularly liaise with the authorities on interception requests. However, in reality, few ISPs have such staff and LIMs are operated without any consultation with them in any case.
The LIMs are said to be installed between the edge router and core network, and have 100 percent indiscriminate access to the online activity of the country's 160 million users. It also has an "always live" link so it can be operated without legal oversight of ISP knowledge.
Authorities are hence, able to monitor not just through e-mail addresses, URL or IP addresses, but through broad keyword or text searches. Nine security agencies, including the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) are reportedly involved.

This comes amid the launch of the Indian government's Central Monitoring System (CMS) project, which intercepts phone and internet data, commenced limited operations in April this year. The CMS was conceived last December after India's Income Tax Department taped the phone conversations of Niira Radia, a politicial lobbyist, with several senior journalists, politicians, and corporate houses over 300 days between 2008 and 2009.

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