Private messages of millions on social networking sites, such as Facebook, could be monitored and stored on a big-brother database, according to new plans being mulled by India to bolster its cyber defences.
Indians moved up two slots this year to become the world’s third-largest Facebook community, according to insidefacebook.com.
According Milind Deora, the minister of state for information technology, the department of telecommunications has now been asked by the home ministry to ensure “effective monitoring of social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter”.With 10,315 hacking attempts in 2010, India is seeking to deploy a raft of stringent and — possibly unpopular — measures to monitor the web. All new government websites will be audited for cyber security prior to hosting and the process would cover existing sites too.
Citing recent trends, official say they anticipate increasing assaults on cyber security by foreign hackers, particularly from Pakistan and China.
According to the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team, such incidents have jumped 303% between 2008 and 2010.
An Achilles’ heel is the use of popular e-mail services, like Hotmail, by the government’s 3.1 million employees to send and receive often sensitive data. “This exposes official information to foreign servers,” cyber law expert Pawan Duggal said.
The move to monitor social networking sites could be tricky. Google — in a confidential memo to the government in May — quietly protested a set of draft rules as “too prescriptive”. The rules required websites to remove “objectionable content”, including third-party content.
The news has outraged free-web advocates. “We can’t have a leash like this without involving Internet companies,” said a media executive representing a popular website, requesting anonymity.
An official cited the European Union’s Data Retention Directive, which proposes that service providers in member states store data from social sites for one year.