In a move that could convert India into a surveillance state and set a dangerous precedent for its citizens, the Government of India authorized 10 Central agencies to snoop and decrypt data from any computer system across the country. Under the Information and Technology Act of 2000, 10 government agencies are empowered and given all rights and powers to intercept computers and perform analysis.
The 10 agencies that have been granted permission are: National Investigation Agency, the Research and Analysis Wing, Intelligence Bureau, Enforcement Directorate, the Central Board of Direct Taxes, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Central Bureau of Investigation, Narcotics Control Bureau, Directorate of Signal Intelligence (in service areas of Jammu and Kashmir, North East and Assam) and Delhi Police.
The Government Order released late last night said: 'The agencies have been authorised for the purpose of interception, monitoring and decryption of any information, generated, transmitted, received or stories in any computer resources under the IT Act.'
While the Government seems to have authorised this, there are several dangers lurking with respect to this order. The Opposition has been crying foul over this move of Modi government being a 'snooping and stalking sarkar.' While some have claimed that it is an undeclared emergency by Modi Sarkar, some of them have said that Modi is implementing what George Orwell predicted in his book 1984 about the concept of a 'Surveillance State.'
Firstly, this could not only allow authorities to invade privacy of individuals, it is a direct assault on the right to privacy of any individual which is a fundamental right. What this could also do is cause unnecessary interference of authorities or the government into people's personal lives.
Additionally, the Modi government which is already being criticised for undermining institutions and misusing several central agencies could use this 'snooping order' to monitor and track any political moves of its rivals which could prove to be disastrous. Such data collection clearly violates the global rights to free speech as well.
According to the International Human Right Law (IHRL) framework, government surveillance must be prescribed under the law - targeted and proportionate. Therefore, the current one falls under a bulk spying program which clearly fails the test and violates the IHRL framework. For instance: There have been several cases of government snooping highlighted in the US by Wikileaks and other watchdogs on how governments violate the fundamental rights of citizens in the name of surveillance.
The Government of India already has the apparatus and framework to keep a watch on people for reasons such as national security and other crucial issues. Hence, this move is a draconian one as this surveillance is not specific in nature but a bulk spying move which does not have adequate safeguards to protect the privacy and rights of its citizens.