Wednesday, March 16, 2011

CMS As The Internet Kill Switch Of India

Internet censorship in India has increased tremendously and that also without a constitutionally sound lawful interception law in India. Internet censorship requires a good balance between civil liberties and law and order and national security requirements. Presently, the approach of Indian government is leaning heavily towards e-surveillance and Internet censorship without much regard to civil liberties of Indians in cyberspace.

Take the example of Internet kill switch (IKS) that has been in limelight these days. Lots of people are talking about IKS without knowing where it exists and how it can be used. The Indian equivalent of IKS can be found in the form of central monitoring system (CMS), which is a centralised mechanism that can assist in lawful interception of communications from landline, mobile and Internet. Although it can be used only if there is a lawful interception law in India yet it seems to have been tested recently without any lawful interception law in India at place.

According to Praveen Dalal, leading techno legal expert of India and managing partner of New Delhi based law firm Perry4Law, the present Cyber Law of India is incorporated in the Information Technology Act, 2000 (IT Act 2000), as amended by the Information Technology Amendment Act 2008 (IT Act 2008). It also carries provisions regarding Internet Censorship and Website Blocking but without any “Procedural Safeguards and Guidelines”. This amounts to taking away “Fundamental Rights” of Indians without Reasonable Restrictions and without prescribing any “Procedural Safeguards” to prevent use of this abusive power, says Dalal.

Recently the Blogspot domain (hosted services) and sub domain (free blogs) were systematically blocked by many of the internet service providers (ISPs) of India. Even Google did not give any reason as to the cause of this outage. Google had enough time to analyse the traffic reports and respond back yet it preferred to keep a mum due to commercial interests it has in Indian market.

This outage may be an “experimental blockage” that took place at the point where Internet traffic enters and exits India. This exercise may have different names. Some may call it an Internet kill switch whereas others may call it a centralised monitoring system. At this stage it is not the nomenclature that is important but the need to put measures and safeguards to prevent its abuse in India.

So next time when we discuss about Internet kill switch of India, we must keep in mind the central monitoring system project of Indian government. If Indian government is not committed to safeguard our civil liberties, we must use self defence measures to protect our civil liberties in cyberspace.