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Govt empowers probe agencies to snoop on any computer, intercept data

With this, the probe agencies can intercept, monitor and decrypt any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer source under 69 (1) of the Information Technology Act, 2000.

SNS | New Delhi |

Girded with new power, security and intelligence agencies can now intercept and monitor any computer device.

The Cyber and Information Security division of the Ministry of Home Affairs, in a major step, has authorised 10 investigating agencies to intercept and monitor information in any computer source. The order has been signed by Union Home Secretary, Rajiv Gauba.

With this, the probe agencies can intercept, monitor and decrypt any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer source under 69 (1) of the Information Technology Act, 2000.

Now, the law enforcement agencies are authorised to intercept as well as tap phones.

The following probe agencies have been authorised to do so — Intelligence Bureau, Narcotics Control Bureau, Enforcement Directorate, Central Board of Direct Taxes, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Central Bureau of Investigation, National Investigation Agency, Cabinet Secretariat (RAW), Directorate of Signal Intelligence (For J-K, North-East and Assam only) and the Commissioner of Police, Delhi.

home ministry

According to the order, the subscriber or service provider or any person in charge of the computer resource will be bound to extend all facilities and technical assistance to the agencies. Failing to do so will invite seven-year imprisonment and fine.

The development had drawn flak from the opposition.

Reacting to the development, senior Congress leader P Chidambaram likened the order with the Orwellian state — a condition that George Orwell identified as destructive for a free society.

“Not studied the matter, but if anybody is going to monitor computers then it is an Orwellian state,” he was quoted as saying by media reports.

CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury accused the government of treating every Indian as a criminal.

“Why is every Indian being treated like a criminal? This order by a govt wanting to snoop on every citizen is unconstitutional and in breach of the telephone tapping guidelines, the Privacy Judgement and the Aadhaar judgement,” he tweeted.

Biju Janata Dal (BJP) leader and party’s chief whip in Lok Sabha T Satpathy took a swipe at the Centre saying that the “BJP government’s love for spy games without Parliament’s or judicial control was amazing”.

“Even in the twilight period of this 16th Lok Sabha, this Govt’s love for spy games (without Parliament’s or Judicial control/oversight) is amazing. Taxpayers’ money spent on snooping on taxpayers’ privacy. None bothered that external intel is failing,” Satpathy tweeted.