Indian intelligence agencies are very anxious to force the electronic communications of India pass through Indian territories. In order to achieve the same, Indian intelligence agencies have been forcing the companies like Research in Motion, Nokia, etc to locate and establish the servers in India so that our agencies can snoop upon electronic communications.
While there is nothing wrong in this exercise provided we must establish adequate, strong and constitutional procedural safeguards so that civil liberties in cyberspace are not violated. With the projects like Aadhaar, Central Monitoring System (CMS), National Intelligence Grid (Natgrid), etc the procedural safeguards are just unachievable dreams alone.
India must reconcile civil liberties and national security requirements to justify its actions. We have no constitutionally sound lawful interception law in India and the same is urgently needed.
The latest to add to the list of service providers who are compulsorily required to establish server in India are all Internet telephony and VOIP service providers who wish to provide their services in India. This could mean that Skype may be required to establish a server in India if it wants to continue offering its services in India.
The Indian government has also decided to ask internet service providers and mobile phone companies to ensure that Internet Protocol (IP) addresses are bifurcated as per the States territory. This may allow the Indian government to block social networking or pornography or hate speech or MLM frauds and other websites and even internet telephony in select States or regions in India. However, as on date websites blocking is India is purely a judicial act as websites in India are blocked only after a court order.
The present decision to establish server in India by the VOIP providers was taken in a home ministry meeting on April 23 that was attended by representatives from Intelligence Bureau, other security agencies, top police forces and senior officials from telecom and IT departments.
As per media reports, the minutes reads: “Any service provider, who provides communication service in India via any media through Voice-over-Internet Protocol ( VOIP), should be mandated to be registered in India, having its office, server located in the country and therefore, subject to Indian laws. Necessary provisions to this effect may be incorporated through amendment in Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 and Information Technology Act, 2000”.
As per the present trends, the cyber litigation against foreign websites in India is going to increase. We have already suggested some recommendations in this regard. These recommendations would become more important when we cannot have either national or international support to prosecute the defaulting companies in India. For instance, recently U.S. refused to serve Indian summons upon U.S. websites including Facebook and Google. Prosecuting foreign companies in such circumstances is really tough unless there is something on the basis of which we can prosecute such companies in India.
Further, the present solution of establishing server in India was proposed after both the telecom and IT departments said it would be not possible to intercept internet telephony communications on a regional basis, or even block these in specific States and regions, due to unregulated internet architecture in India and highly decentralised encrypted structure of Skype.
It was also decided that all ‘ISPs and telcos must designate a nodal officer in each State with access to GGSN gateway. In common parlance, the nodal officer must have access to that part of the network that is responsible for the delivery of data packets from and to the mobile stations within a geographical service area.