India will reportedly ban use of US e-mail services

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.
Written by Ellyne Phneah, Contributor
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.

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