Wednesday 2 March 2011

India Is Pressurising Blackberry Indirectly And Unconstitutionally

India is leaving no stone unturned to force Blackberry maker Research in Motion (RIM) to succumb to its e-surveillance demands. By threatening to ban Blackberry services in India, the government has already obtained access to Blackberry’s messenger services. Now India is forcing the telecom service providers of India to drop Blackberry’s services if it does not provide free and unencrypted access to its services in India.

Similar threats have been issued by Indian government to other services providers providing e-mail and VOIP services. Gmail and Skype have been asked to provide the encryption keys to Indian government and its security agencies. However, neither Google nor Skype have admitted of receiving any such communication.

Once again, India has reiterated that companies that offer encrypted communication services will have to allow monitoring of such services by security agencies if they want to operate in the country. Home Secretary Gopal K. Pillai categorically declared that only those who allow access would be allowed to operate in India and none else.

Pillai claimed that under the law the service providers have to give access to Indian security and intelligence agencies. However, India has no constitutionally sound lawful interception law in existence. This practically means that all service providers have to comply with executive orders even if they are not constitutional.

According to Praveen Dalal, a Supreme Court lawyer and leading techno legal expert of India, we have “No Constitutionally Sound” Lawful Interception Law in India and we need one immediately. The Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 has served it purpose and it must be “Repealed” as soon as possible if India cares about Fundamental Rights of Indian Citizens, suggests Dalal.

Surprisingly, India has been doing a warrant less e-surveillance for more than 60 years and none bothered to raise a voice. None can doubt that this is a grave violation of civil liberties of Indians. Technology has added another dimension to this endemic e-surveillance exercise of Indian government.

The matter is pending before the Supreme court of India and even the Supreme Court is not happy with the increasingly use of technology to invade privacy rights of Indians. Let us hope the Supreme Court would strike down the telegraph act as unconstitutional.