Mastering the Art of Keeping Indians Under Surveillance

[Excerpt] The Central Monitoring System (CMS) is an attempt to co-opt the interface between government and the purveyors of communications; because if the state cannot control communications, it cannot control society. It represents the natural culmination of the progression of Indian surveillance. However, in its present state, Indian surveillance law is unable to bear the weight of the CMS project, and must be vastly strengthened to protect privacy and accountability before the state is given direct access to communications.

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Why Ratan Tata is wrong about privacy: Part I – background, facts, and issues

[Abstract] The Supreme Court of India will soon deliver its judgment in the case of Ratan Tata v. Union of India that examines important issues of free speech and privacy. The case deals with the interception of telephone conversations over several years, the ‘leak’ of those confidential telephone conversations to reveal large-scale impropriety and corroboratory evidence of wholesale corruption, and the publishing of such information by the press. In these series of posts, I will examine: (a) the free speech right of the press to publish confidential information in the larger public interest; (b) the right of the public to know of corrupt and illegal activities versus the duty of confidentiality and official secrecy; and, (c) the breach of the statutory or tortious duty of confidentiality in respect of taped conversations. This first post looks at the background, facts of the case, and legal issues.

National Roundtable – Privacy and Surveillance in India (click for video)

This is a brief introduction to the law of privacy and communications surveillance in India, at a National Roundtable on Privacy and Surveillance at the India International Centre in New Delhi on 4th July 2014. The Roundtable was convened to discuss proposals to reform existing laws relating to the interception of communications in India. Current […]

India’s Central Monitoring System

Abstract: The Central Monitoring System (CMS) is a project to automate wiretaps in India, which are currently conducted by private carriers. It is being undertaken without first resolving the potential invalidity of its parent statute. India’s wiretaps regime is set out in section 5(2) of the Telegraph Act and rule 419A of the Telegraph Rules. In 1996, in the first constitutional challenge to wiretaps, the Supreme Court found the wiretap provisions too invasive and prescribed fresh procedure. In 1968, the Law Commission noted that the wiretap provisions may be unconstitutional. While surveillance is a legitimate national function, it must be conducted within the law and with sufficient protection for privacy. Projects like the CMS usher a techno-utopian dream of PRISM-style mass surveillance without the actual ability to safely conduct it.