India ranks third in world in electronic interception

The Transparency Report, which seeks to highlight online censorship around the world, shows USA and Brazil leading the dubious list of countries curbing online freedom.  

Indian authorities made 1,430 requests to Google to identify specific users of its various services such as Gmail, You Tube, Orkut and Blogger between January and June 2010. USA and Brazil made 4,287 and 2,435 requests respectively.

The Information Technology Act of 2008 empowers security agencies to intercept electronic communication from mobile calls to emails in the course of their work. The authorities keep a close watch on the ISPs and online services, and routinely ask service providers to identify specific users who post objectionable content or indulge in suspicious activities. 

But as noted by civil rights activists, security agencies have used their power to hound even harmless online activities. In 2008, Pune police took the help of Google to identify a Gurgaon-based Orkut user, who had posted ‘derogatory content’ on Sonia Gandhi and arrested him. 

Introducing the Transparency Report Google notes that the data primarily covers requests in criminal matters. “However, there are likely a small number of requests that fall outside of this category,” it adds.

The incidents of electronic surveillance seem to be on the rise. Between July and December 2009, Indian authorities had asked Google to identify just 1,061 users.

Google says it declines to provide information if the request is not within “the scope and authority” of the agency. It complied with 53.3 per cent of requests from Indian government to remove objectionable data. In contrast, the US and Brazil sent 128 and 398 requests to remove objectionable content.

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