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Phone tapping incidents down since 2014: Government

The number of phone and internet traffic interceptions that security agencies have carried out between 2014 and 2018 has dropped by about 25% compared to the period from 2011 to 2014, according to a Union home ministry official.

india Updated: Dec 31, 2018 07:54 IST
Sudhi Ranjan Sen
Sudhi Ranjan Sen
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
phone tapping,phone tapping government,security India
Image for representation.(AFP file photo)

The number of phone and internet traffic interceptions that security agencies have carried out between 2014 and 2018 has dropped by about 25% compared to the period from 2011 to 2014, according to a Union home ministry official.

“Despite the exponential increase in email traffic since 2001 and a huge increase in the number of telephone and internet connections, there has been a reduction in the interceptions,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

The ministry official credited “stringent application and streamlining of the interception process” for a dip in the number of interceptions even as there are about 1.012 billion mobile connections and 560 million internet connections in India, as per latest government data.

The information has emerged days after Union home secretary Rajiv Gauba’s December 20 order authorising 10 security and intelligence agencies to lawfully “intercept, monitor and decrypt” information through a “computer resource” provoked outrage.

Congress leader P Chidambaram reacted to the order saying if anybody is going to monitor computers, “then it is an Orwellian state”. The ruling BJP hit back saying interceptions were done illegally when the Congress was in power until 2014.

The ministry refused to give the exact numbers of interceptions, citing security reasons and privacy of individuals.

The official quoted above cited the December 20 order and added that no “new law, no new rule, no new procedure or no new agency has been allowed to intercept”. “The law is exactly the same as has been since 2009 when the rules for the Information Technology Act of 2000 were framed.”

The official added, “Every individual case is examined. And to reiterate there is no blanket permission given to agencies to intercept either telephones or internet traffic.”

Union home secretary clears interceptions for central agencies. Home secretaries do the same in the states.

Two committees, comprising director-level officers, have been formed to maintain safeguards and to randomly check the interceptions. “One [committee] is designated to check with agencies like the Intelligence Bureau, Central Bureau of Investigation whether interceptions have authorisation,’’ said the official.

“The second committee checks with the service providers end... With telecom service providers like BSNL, Airtel whether the interceptions are backed by authorisation. Importantly, checks are also carried out to verify whether the target and the phone number of target or internet connection listed against the target are the same by the committees,” the official said.

The official said along with the December 20 order listing out the agencies, there was another that reiterated the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for the interceptions. The SOPs are exactly the same as the ones issued in 2011 “by the previous [Congress] government”, the official added.

First Published: Dec 31, 2018 07:22 IST