Multiple Security Agencies today are dealing with equally varied forms of internet surveillance and other forms of monitoring platforms that have high potency and are very powerful too. Hence these agencies feel that the law enforcement agencies should follow a specific set of practices, routinely referred to as Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), while making use of these platforms. Essentially everyone involved feels that these powerful platforms must be used judiciously and the access must be regulated in order to ensure that the CIMS is used only for lawful interception.
Why is there a need for regulation? At present, there is no framework in place to govern the use of these eavesdropping platforms. Accordingly “various” law enforcement agencies have been approaching Department of Telecommunications (DoT), seeking access to CIMS for tracking e-mails and cyber messages for investigation purposes. As there is no rule to allow or disallow access, DoT has allowed the law enforcement agencies to connect to the CIMS, from time to time, through C-DoT, based on its own accord.
Additionally, given the fact that the law enforcement agency does the provisioning and also collects the output from the CIMS, with no second agency being involved in the process, the security agencies fear lack of oversight in using the CIMS. Ironically Security Agencies have proposed that the Union Home Ministry draws up SOPs to enable ‘Self-Regulation’ by law enforcement agencies using CIMS for investigative purposes. At present, Section 69(2) empowers the government to prescribe the procedures and safeguards subject to which the interception, monitoring or decryption of internet messages may be carried out.
India has been quite serious about enhancing its capabilities to keep a watchful eye on activities of internet users. With instances of cyber–crimes and cyber–terrorism on the rise, it is believed that proactive monitoring could lead to timely intervention and possible thwarting of nefarious activities. What do you think is the ideal way to ensure that platforms like the CIMS or Netra are used only by the just and law-abiding individuals or agencies?
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