Centre to snoop into your mails, chat sites

Move for national security

At the behest of the ministry, the department of communications has asked providers of the email, chat and voice over internet protocol (VoIP) services to allow the government’s security and intelligence agencies access to all communications that take place in their networks.  

The department’s request is applicable to popular services like Gmail, Gtalk and Skype. The government has asked the service providers concerned to share their encryption keys to ensure that the data exchanged through their network are available to security agencies in readable format directly.

Google is a popular search engine which also offers email, online chatting and owns the social networking website, Orkut. Luxembourg-based Skype SA provides telephony services over the internet on personal computers and mobile phones, which also use proprietary encryption and decryption.

Sources in the Ministry of Communication told Deccan Herald that the Home Ministry was very particular about intercepting these services, as it fears that terrorists and other anti-national and anti-social elements might use the web medium of communication.  

In the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, it was learnt that the Pakistani terrorists had used a voice-over-internet protocol (VoIP) service to remain in touch with their handlers in Pakistan. Indian agencies were helped by the US agencies to get information about this.

The encryption keys demanded by the government will help it decode the data, which is in secure and in encrypted form. The government had recently asked the Canada-based firm Research In Motion (RIM), the makers of the popular BlackBerry handsets, to set up their server in India to enable the Indian agencies to get access.

Though the company had provided a “workable solution”, the government wanted to have a real-time surveillance facility. The government has given January, 2011 deadline to the RIM to meet its demand.

Finnish telecom giant Nokia, which provides the services of push mail service, has said it would set up its server in India to enable Indian security agencies to get lawful access. The government is gearing up to intensify its surveillance on modern gadgets.

As per a recent letter sent to private telecom companies, the Department of Telecom has said it intended to intercept one per cent of the total phone connection (approximately 7 million mobile) in the country soon and would increase it to five per cent (35 million) in the future.

At present the country has around 700 million mobile phone connections and the various government agencies are tapping around 5000 phones.

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