Telangana, AP slueths evade Centre

Phone tap system not hooked to Centre.

Tirupati: Andhra and Telangana police agencies, which snoop on telephone conversations and cyber communications of citizens, including e-mails, under the Legal Interception System, haven’t hooked up to the Department of Tele-communication’s (DoT) Central Monitoring System (CMS), considered to be India’s Big Brother project. The CMS gives security agencies and income tax department centralised access to the national telecommunications network.

The Central government claims that this prevents misuse and provides an additional safeguard, though privacy advocates like the Centre for Internet and Society-India allege that it will lead to ‘surveillance’ in the name of centralising ‘lawful interception’. Though 17 CMS units have been set up in the two Telugu states, including Hyderabad, intelligence agencies are reluctant to hook up citing a mismatch between the technical protocols of CMS and their intercepting equipment.

AP police also wanted the CMS unit to be established in Vijayawada and not in Hyderabad, as it is a sensitive issue. The worst fear of state police agencies is that what they are monitoring will be known to the Centre. Department of Telecommunications DDG (Security) G. Narendranath, speaking on cyber security at the 104th Indian Science Congress on Saturday, said that the Central Monitoring System has been established “for lawful interception as per the provisions of the IT Act and Telegraph Act. This is an automatic process to legally intercept on phone lines and internet communications. With the CMS, the law enforcement agencies need not take authorisation from the nodal officer of telecom service providers and this prevents leakage of information from them.”

Apart from state police agencies, there are around nine central agencies, such as the Intelligence Bureau, Central Bureau of Intelligence, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Research and Analysis Wing, and the National Investigation Agency, that can legally intercept communications in the interests of the nation. A senior intelligence official says that the CMS unit was set up in Hyderabad before bifurcation, which is why there is no such unit in Vijayawada.

“We have some technical problems like the protocols mismatch. In Andhra Pradesh we have all this interception streamlined, unlike other states that are hooked up to CMS.” At the Indian Science Congress, Prof. N Balakrishnan, a Padmasree award winner and computer scientist from the Indian Institute of Science, replying to a question by one of the participants, defended the surveillance or monitoring of private citizens and organisations as being in the interests of the nation.

“You want civilians to be killed when someone puts a bomb? When I am protecting security of my country, privacy is no concern to me. Do not treat this as illegal. Every country monitors. The Central Intelligence Agency of the United States started it and we do too.”

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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