With reference to the Order Issued by Ministry of Home Affairs on Thursday, the MHA has authorised 10 central government agencies to monitor, intercept and decrypt “any information generation,transmitted, received or stored in any computer.”
The central agencies list include (i) Intelligence Bureau; (ii) Narcotics Control Bureau; (iii) Enforcement Directorate; (iv) Central Board of Direct Taxes; (v) Directorate of Revenue Intelligence; (vi) Central Bureau of Investigation; (vii) National Investigation Agency; (viii) Cabinet Secretariat (RAW); (ix) Directorate of Signal Intelligence (For service areas of Jammu & Kashmir, North-East and Assam only); (x) Commissioner of Police, Delhi.
The above listed central authorities are authorised to direct all subscriber and service provider or any person in charge of computer resource to extend all facilities and technical assistance to monitor, intercept and decrypt computer data. Failing to do so will lead to seven years of imprisonment and fine.
The Ministry of Home Affairs has invoked Section 69(1) of the Information Technology Act, 2000 to give the order. The section states that the Central government can ask any agency to collect personal data from computers after it is sufficiently satisfied that it is necessary to do so in the “interest of the sovereignty or integrity of India, defense of India, security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states or public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognisable offense relating to above or for investigation of any offense.”
In response to the MHA orders, P Chidambaram said, ” I have not yet studied the matter, but if anybody is going to monitor computers then it is an Orwellian state”
From Congress Ahmed Patel said, “The sweeping powers given to the agencies to snoop phone calls and computers without any checks and balances is extremely worrisome. This is likely to be misused.”
It seems that the order is creating violation of personal privacy. With the proposed data protection bill still under debate, which says that all and any data collection will require individual consent, the MHA order seems counterproductive. Unless explicit consent is given, personal data cannot be shared or processed.