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India Rolls Out Surveillance System To Monitor Citizens’ Calls, E-mails and Web Activity

by Adriana Lee | May 9, 2013May 9, 2013 10:30 pm PST


Tech users may be more blasé than ever about privacy matters and tracking features, but even the most indifferent might feel ill at ease if they lived in India. The country, which is responsible for much of the talent that has become modern technology’s lifeblood, has quietly been rolling out a surveillance system that tracks its citizens’ online activity, texts and phone calls.

That’s no small feat for one of the world’s fastest growing Internet markets. But India, which has been working on this for two years, seems rather certain that its $74 million Central Monitoring System will be worth it. Exactly why isn’t known, nor are details about who will use it and in what circumstances. That’s rather troubling for at least one cyberlaw specialist. Pavan Duggal told The Times of India that the system is “capable of tremendous abuse.”

This isn’t difficult to imagine. Presumably the surveillance network was designed to bolster the country’s security and anti-terrorism forces, but it will reportedly give government agencies the broad power to surveil calls, SMS messages, emails, social networks and Web activity of any of its citizens. It’s already in use, but completion is slated for August 2014.

India has been a tricky place for tech companies to make in-roads. Facebook and Google both faced censoring mandates there, and both Nokia and BlackBerry had to jump through hoops to ensure compliance with government surveillance standards.

Jokes are rampant on the Web about Americans getting tangled up in this whenever they call an outsourced tech support line, but in truth, U.S. citizens have their own privacy matters to mull over. The latest involves a leaked Federal Bureau of Investigations manual that claims search warrants are not required to seize Americans’ e-mails.

Adriana Lee

Adriana is the resident writer-slash-culture vulture who has written about everything from smartphones, tablets, apps, accessories, and small biz...