Government to Intensely Scan Social Networking Sites

10 Aug 11: The central government is taking steps to monitor various conservations in the social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Access to encrypted data is the main focus of the government. The Department of Telecom is responsible for effective monitoring of these social networking sites.

Currently there are Acts such as Indian Telegraph Act, Indian Information Technology (IT) Act, 2008 (amended in 2008) give rights to the government to intercept, monitor and even block the online conversations and websites. The government has already blocked 11 websites based on the data received by Department of Information Technology (DIT) and this list is put up at Center for Internet and Society (CIS).

This action is being taken by government because these social networking sites are very popular and easily influence people; therefore, there are high chances of being misused by cyber criminals and terrorists. The very popular social sites in India are Facebook, Twitter, Orkut and Google+. Facebook has around 31 million users in India, Orkut around 18 million users, Google+ around 20 million users and coming to Twitter, India is placed in top 10 countries in terms of number of Twitter users contributing to the 6.5 percent of total site traffic. These sites have played an important role in situations such as support for Anna Hazare’s fight against corruption and in situations of floods and other natural calamities.

CIS has opined that it is the responsibility of the government to monitor conversations and websites which it suspects to cause harm to country’s sovereignty, integrity, security and defense. But it is difficult for the government to monitor and screen each and every conversation of a website and moreover, terrorists are found to use coded language to converse. Further, since the operating servers of these sites are in different countries, the jurisdictions differ and the Indian laws don’t apply for disclosure of private content.

But the legal regulations such as Sections 1 and 75 of the India IT Act sate that, regardless of the nationality, any company that operates in India is held accountable if the contravention of the law has impact on India’s computer system. Under another Section 70(B), the service providers such as ISP’s and Telecom providers should provide data regarding cyber security breaches on all computers in India to the government. Moreover, under another section it is mandatory for all cyber cafes to retain their users identity proof for one year.

Many countries are increasingly adopting Internet censorship in various degrees. Global Network Initiative (GNI) report, 2010 has stated that both democratic and non-democratic countries are equally adopting censorship and surveillance techniques to restrict harmful content. Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! are already present on the GNI board and other companies like Twitter and Facebook are expected to join the board.

Source: Business Standard