India to set up automatic monitoring of communications

The pilot for the project will start in June, a minister said

India plans to set up a centralized system to monitor communications on mobile phones, landlines and the Internet in the country, a minister told the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of Parliament, on Thursday.

Indian laws allow the interception and monitoring of communications under certain conditions, including to counter terrorism.

A pilot of the new Centralized Monitoring System (CMS) is to be started by June next year, subject to clearances by other government agencies, Gurudas Kamat, Minister of State for Communications and Information Technology told the Rajya Sabha, according to an announcement by the government's Press Information Bureau.

The CMS will have central and regional databases to help central and state-level enforcement agencies intercept and monitor communications, the government said. It will also have direct electronic provisioning of target numbers by government agencies without any intervention from telecom service providers, it added. It will also feature analysis of call data records and data mining of these records to identify call details, location details, and other information of the target numbers.

The current system used by the government for call monitoring can be easily compromised because of the requirement of manual intervention at many stages, the minister said. Interception using the new system will also be instant, he added.

The statement by Kamat comes on the anniversary of a terrorist attack on a number of sites in Mumbai, including two premium hotels, a railway station, and a Jewish community center. The terrorists are believed to have used mobile communications and the Internet extensively to plan and execute their attacks.

The government brought into force earlier this year the Information Technology (Amendment) Act 2008, an amendment to an earlier law, which broadened the government's powers to intercept and monitor communications.

Some experts have argued that the government should set up an organization like an ombudsman to ensure that information collected during surveillance is not misused.

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