The government is giving final touches to the National Intelligence Grid (Natgrid) that will provide security agencies real-time access into nearly 21 categories of databases to raise surveillance levels, help sleuths connect the dots and raise a red flag when another David Headley flies in and out of the country.
The Cabinet Committee on Security — that had accorded its in principle approval to the information grid earlier this year — is expected to consider the project report within the next few weeks. "It had approved a concept note for Natgrid. It now has to clear the project proposal based on the detailed project report," a source said.
In its final form, sources said, the Natgrid report had taken care of concerns of intrusion of privacy expressed at the CCS meeting. For one, security agencies will not be allowed to follow individuals through the information superhighway and wait for them to make a mistake.
But interlinking databases — right from driving license, bank account details to immigration records — in real time would slash the time taken for security agencies to retrieve information about individuals.
"It would intrude privacy only to the extent of raising efficiency of the surveillance system," a government official said. For instance, rather than writing to the Reserve Bank of India for account details of an individual, authorised security officials would be able to make the request and get a real-time response through the information grid.
In due course, information grid will have the ability to crawl through the consolidated database to sniff for suspicious patterns and flag them for further investigations.
Government officials, however, hinted that they may have to redraw the timelines to put an effective system in place.
P Chidambaram — who had taken over as home minister in the wake of 26/11 — had put the Natgrid high on his priority list and targeted to put the grid in place, latest by December 2011.
Sources indicate it will be difficult to stick to this deadline, as Natgrid will require the databases to adopt a common format of storing and retrieving data.