Sunday, December 18, 2011

For those agitated over the big brother snooping on their lives, there is more bad news in store as India’s external intelligence agency, the Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW) has been notified by the UPA government as an “authorised agen-cy” to legally intercept phone calls, e-mails and all forms of data, voice and electronic communications with immediate effect.

This is the first time in R&AW’s history since its inception in 1967 that it has been allowed to snoop on Indian citizens in addition to its espionage activities abroad.

The notification came a few weeks ago after the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) added the intelligence organisation to the list of eight recognised law enforcement agencies that have been authorised by the Supreme Court to legally intercept communications, senior government officials confirmed to DNA.

But the move also raises questions about the government’s intentions at a time when Union communications and IT minister Kapil Sibal let it slip that the government was planning to screen social media.

According to the notification, R&AW can now post its communication interception equipment at international gateways to spy on all forms of data, be it international telephony emanating from India, or any form of electronic data including e-mails. The move raises the question about the grey area of surveillance, privacy and citizen’s rights in the absence of any form of effective oversight mechanisms...