Government bid to monitor and decrypt information is an assault on privacy
Free Software Movement of India condemns the Ministry of Home Affairs notification issued on December 20, permitting 10 security agencies to intercept, monitor and decrypt information "generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer resource". Under this notification, which seems to involve an expansion in the power of the authorities concerned, not only communication but also data on devices is vulnerable to monitoring and decryption. The notification is utterly against the spirit of recent Supreme Court judgments on privacy and Aadhaar and the Srikrishna Committee Report on Data Protection, and turns the clock back on the privacy framework and the rights of Indian citizens.
This attempt also has to be seen in the global context wherein agencies such as the National Security Agency of the United States and the Australian government have been pressurizing IT firms and service providers to break encryption systems. This notification is another attempt by the State to target secure communication.
The Supreme Court has declared in the Right to Privacy verdict that any intrusion on privacy must meet the four-fold test of legality, need and proportionality and process. The recent Srikrishna Committee Report states that the processing of personal data can be done for only "clear, specific and lawful" purposes. The Supreme Court's Aadhaar judgment refers to the need for judicial oversight of governmental access to data. However, the government, in its notification, has ignored all this and resorted to an intrusive, unregulated framework that violates the privacy of Indian citizens and gives blanket powers to the executive.
It is clear that these powers could be used to target sections critical of the government. They will also have a chilling effect on the freedom of speech and expression. FSMI demands that the government ensure that these powers be subject to parliamentary or judicial scrutiny. FSMI also calls on all civil liberties groups, tech groups and like-minded individuals to work to ensure reform in the relevant laws.