‘Snooping order only to plug gaps’
Govt Likely To Tell SC That IT-Rules Tweak Is No Policy Change
New Delhi: The home ministry, in its reply to the Supreme Court on authorising 10 agencies to tap into a computer resource, is likely to reiterate that the relevant order did not mark any change in policy but only plugged legal loopholes in Information Technology Rules, 2009 that required the government to notify authorised agencies for interception, and standard operating procedures of 2011 that mandated telecom and internet service providers (TSPs/ISPs) to share data if approached by such authorised agencies.
The authorised agencies for interception under the IT law were never notified, a ministry official said. As a result, any agency or entity could approach TSPs/ISPs for intercepted data in an emergent situation, allowing scope for misuse since only post-facto approval of the home secretary had to be taken.
By notifying the 10 authorised agencies on December 20 last year, the government has ended the ambiguity and TSPs/ISPs now cannot share data with any agency other than these 10. This was necessary given the emergence of many service providers and the exponential rise in number of internet us- ers in India, said an officer.
Besides underlining the two-stage screening/review of interception cases at the level of home secretary and then cabinet secretary, home ministry officials claimed the number of interception requests had fallen in recent years in absolute terms and more so in proportion to the growing number of internet users in the country.
The ministry may also cite before the SC the legal systems for interception prevalent across the world.
The US has enacted Cloud Act, 2018, to allow several law enforcement agencies to compel US-based technology companies to provide requested data stored on servers regardless of whether the data is stored in the US or on foreign soil.
According to a 2016 study by the Law Library of Congress’s Global Legal Research Centre on government access to encrypted communications, national intelligence and security services in France may obtain authorisation to intercept and read private communications for purposes including national security, protecting the “safety of essential elements of France’s economic and scientific potential” and preventing acts of terrorism.
Full report on www.toi.in