A new system for monitoring almost everything that’s going on inside India’s telecoms network has been quietly launched. The Central Monitoring System will offer tax collectors, law enforcement and and other agencies the ability to scrutinize phone calls, text messages, emails, social networking and general web activity. In one of the fastest-growing internet markets in the world, the Indian government has been increasing its role in watching communication channels following the Mumbai bombings in 2008, with laws amended both in that year and in 2011, increasing the access of government workers for “reasonable security practices and procedures.”
In recent times, India has interfered with both Nokia and BlackBerry to ensure they had their own monitoring systems in place. The new country-wide system has been under construction for two years and offers investigative agencies a single point of access to all citizens’ digital exchanges as well as location data. Pavan Duggal, a specialist in cyberlaw told the Times of India that the system is “capable of tremendous abuse.” He noted that there wasn’t much clarity from the government yet on exactly what it intends to monitor, or what it’s looking for.
India’s government is spending just short of $7.4 million to build the service, which has been in the works since around 2009. The country’s government hasn’t been shy aboutweb censorship in the past, requesting that content be removed and prescreened by major companies such as Google. And though the Central Monitoring System will ostensibly be used for fighting terrorism, the threat of constant monitoring doesn’t speak well for continued internet and telecom freedoms.The Times of India reported previouslythat the program is expected to be running in a preliminary state right now, and ultimately should be fully in place by August of 2014.