Delhi Police’s cyber cell lost in paperwork, legal hurdles

  • Ananya Bhardwaj, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jun 19, 2015 00:51 IST

Delhi has seen a steady rise in complaints of impersonation, fake profiles and stalking over social networking sites but the police, struggling for information, have not managed to crack a single case in the last 18 months.

Servers of most of these sites such as Facebook and Twitter were in the US, making it difficult to identify those posting malicious content, police sources said.

“Access to information is definitely a problem as each time we receive a complaint, we have to approach the websites through a lengthy procedure,” special commissioner of police (Crime) Taj Hassan said. Since the websites were based in the US, they had to contact them even for the most basic of information, he said.

In 2014, the Delhi Police cyber cell got 16 complaints of stalking and malicious content on Facebook, not one has been cracked yet, police data shows. Same for the 12 cases reported this year so far.

“Many women come to us with complaints of cyber stalking, posting of obscene content or fake profiles but there is nothing much we can do,” a police officer said on condition of anonymity.

Police need IP address to track the person and machine from where offensive content is posted and that can only come from servers.

For instance, to get details of Facebook profiles, logs and IP addresses, police have to send requests to the US. Facebook is headquartered in Menlo Park, California.

But, servers are not the only problem. In most cases, what is considered a crime in India is not counted as an offence in the US.

“We have reviewed this profile and have not found a violation of our statement of rights and responsibilities based on the information provided and hence profile will not be removed,” is the reply the police get to most of their requests for a profile or offensive content to be removed.

“The websites do respond to our queries but do not provide sufficient evidence crucial for investigation,” Hassan said.

In many cases, information comes too late to track the accused as the logs expire -- servers store information for a limited time.

India has a mutual legal assistance treaty with the US and many other countries that allows it access to information but the process is long-drawn.

A letter rogatory is required to get the information. Before it can be sent forward, the letter has to be cleared by a court and then the home ministry. It takes at least six months and lots of paper work.

As these networking sites were widely popular, some servers should be moved to India or obtaining information made easier, police said.

The issue has been raised several times and also taken up with the US authorities but nothing came of it. The ministry of home had set up a committee that sent in a report but the suggestions remain on paper.

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