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Updated: February 23, 2012 02:36 IST

Centre can directly access your phone chat soon

Sandeep Joshi
Comment (23)   ·   print   ·   T  T  
The Hindu

Secure tapping mechanism ready; sequel to Radia tape leak

Soon the Centre would have direct access to all your telephone conversations as the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has developed capabilities to intercept phones without keeping your operator in the loop. Currently, trials are on in Delhi and Haryana through a main server established in the national capital. It would take another 12 months before the system is officially operational.

Alarmed by the leak in the corporate lobbyist Niira Radia phone-tapping case, the Centre at the highest level decided to set up a Central Monitoring System (CMS) to tap calls without the interference of telecom service providers. Subsequently, the DoT's Telecom Enforcement, Resource and Monitoring (TREM) Cell along with the Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DoT) was asked to develop the project for which Rs.170 crore was earmarked. After almost one year, the CMS is ready and being tested.

Exclusive facility

“This is the DoT's exclusive facility that would assist intelligence and security agencies, besides strategic government departments in phone-tapping,” a senior DoT official said. The DoT would be required to set up separate servers in each State, depending upon the requirements and the number of subscribers. While the facility in Delhi and adjoining States are likely to be ready by year-end, it might take at least another couple of years before servers are established across India.

Complex system

The present system of phone-tapping is a complex one as eight intelligence and investigating agencies wanting to snoop on anybody's phone are required to approach the Union Home Ministry for clearance with specific reasons. Armed with necessary clearances, the department officials would then approach the telecom operators for tapping phones. It is feared that the loopholes in the current process led to the leakage of the Radia tapes.

Total control

However, in the new mechanism, the DoT will have total control of a tapped line, giving telecom firms no access to the intercepted line. Another important aspect of the new centralised system is that irrespective of operators, lines would be tapped at one location, which will be manned round-the-clock by officials of the government agencies.

How are they going to intercept land lines without the help of respective companies? Or is it only applicable to mobiles?

IMO, government has yet again displayed its incompetency, by not even trying to fully understand how something works, and where technology is heading; before getting knee dip in water. 170 crores for a system which can be easily surpassed by using VOIP+encryption? I mean common on.

from:  Aby James
Posted on: Feb 23, 2012 at 18:08 IST

There is a fine line between "the" people's right to privacy and "a" government's duty to ensure law, order and security in the present context. Privacy is very important and must not be jeopardized on account of a government's helplessness to perform it's duty. In a country with such diverse demographics, demarcation between use and abuse of such a powerful system of monitoring will be extremely difficult and hence it does not seem wise to use such a system. This step may seem apt to some, but it is too powerful a step. Further, the primary reason for doubt comes from people's lack of trust in the government, which is a more fundamental issue. Thus, it is more important to address maladministration first! And just for a far-fetched argument, what if someday one gets penalized just for using a specific set of words over the phone, which the "government" does not "like"? Can this step strengthen security while retaining democracy? Who draws the line and to what extent?

from:  Vinayak
Posted on: Feb 23, 2012 at 15:51 IST

This is totally against Democracy. And how can the government vouch for that its secure and will not be misused?

from:  Rixi
Posted on: Feb 23, 2012 at 14:12 IST

Considering Niira Radia phone-tapping (leak), Govt should have found ways for stop illegal phone-tapping.

Instead Govt have decided to stop legal phone tapping procedure and go against law (by not getting clearance)/democracy.

The real objective of this, is to trace conversation between terror groups or for the politicians and industrialists to protect their secrets/looting being leaked?

If the politicians can create/bend the law to their wish, then what is democracy?

from:  Sankar
Posted on: Feb 23, 2012 at 13:31 IST

Tapping is the prerogative of any government but so is the right of privacy of any citizen of India .
Hope info tapped are not brought under the purview of Right to Information Act. If done Media would have a lot to buzz about.....
Politics Cinema & Business people have a lot to worry about

from:  Ramprakash
Posted on: Feb 23, 2012 at 12:52 IST

It is the starting of a new era of secure telecommunications which will
ensure the foundations for the more defensive mechanisms against
terrorism and anti-social acts. This will also give an insight to more
reliable evidence for the judiciary system to take impartial judgement
on the cases concerning corruption, social injustice, fraudulent etc.
Individual security is the prime concern in the coming future and such
steps to ensure it must be welcomed with full grace and sincerity.

from:  Ravindra
Posted on: Feb 23, 2012 at 12:41 IST

So now we have a live subject to debate in the name of personal liberty, infringement up on personal freedom, violation of constitutional rights and what not. One thing sure India needs such a system very desperately. People who lead normal life abiding law and order should find any reason why it should not be implemented. Sure the demagogue politicians should/must object such a move because if all their deeds are intercepted, the secrets will be out in no time. So don’t say that the sheen of third rated governance will be peeled out, but drag the constitutional clause in the mid way and shield the move and claim that you are the political savior to protect the interest of the masses. If necessary there need to be a people spring to implement such a move.

from:  Bose A Panicker
Posted on: Feb 23, 2012 at 12:30 IST

Look, the report makes it very clear that the system is 'very secure'
(as per the government). Which implies that only the government has
access to any telephonic conversations in any ongoing investigations,
which again implies that only it is aware of any evidence in any
investigation, which again implies that it need not make any factual
existence of any evidence public (unless someone amongst us becomes
aware of it and invokes the RTI), which again implies that the common
mass is unaware of any investigatory methods/practices that the
investigating agencies are employing, which leads to my conclusion
that democracy is being corrupted by the bureaucracy in power.

from:  Ram
Posted on: Feb 23, 2012 at 12:24 IST

So the Government still thinks majority of dangerous & crucial
informational transaction happens over telephones. And by the way, US
can already tap into any phone they need, even ours. How is that for a
liberty breach starters? However, crucial data that are often
destructive, are usually transacted over Internet, in packets of data or
in torrents or in more general forms like Skype.

from:  Ram
Posted on: Feb 23, 2012 at 12:23 IST

This is against Democracy

from:  Vijesh
Posted on: Feb 23, 2012 at 12:12 IST

I have just been watching a re-run of an episode of SPOOKS, the BBC
serial. The CIA wants Britain to have a unified Intelligence system
with spies having the power to arrest and detain at will. There are
enough people at the highest political and policy-making levels
in the British government to fall in line with and implement the
American diktat. Sound familiar, NCTC?

from:  malini r
Posted on: Feb 23, 2012 at 11:46 IST

We can be cent per cent assured that the GOI will misuse this system for
their own political ends. What is lacking among the politicians, who
govern the state today, is honesty i.e., honesty of intention. India is
moving towards a big churning in the near future as politicians' actions
are based on their belief that "might is right".

from:  mvrangaraajan
Posted on: Feb 23, 2012 at 11:36 IST

This new policy could be one of the effective mechanism through which we can contain the burgeoning menace of terrorism and corruption in India. But the whole question is where the so called freedom/liberty is when your privacy is intruded upon. Let there be a well defined line to avoid collateral damages.

from:  Hejang Misao
Posted on: Feb 23, 2012 at 11:00 IST

Most of the developed nations who are fighting long battles against
terror are already having such mechanisms since decades. Its a welcome
step by the DoT and would serve the purpose of real-time tapping of
phones of suspected elements. Only the terrorists, smugglers, tax-
evaders, offenders and criminals need to worry from such a phone tapping
system. A honest and hard-working citizen needs not to worry at all. But
some safeguards against the mis-use of system should also be put in

from:  sanjay
Posted on: Feb 23, 2012 at 10:35 IST

The Big Brother who can watch over all of us is here. How will we ensure that this is not misused for political espionage?

from:  P. Zachariah
Posted on: Feb 23, 2012 at 09:58 IST

The government has once again decided to trample upon individual liberty. Another method is being introduced supposedly to aid security. But as we have found over the past 60 years, lawlessness will continue unabated and the security of the average citizen will not improve by one iota. However, the privacy of our citizens will be destroyed. Further, government agencies will be used to snoop on political opponents by those in power. Will our inept judiciary ever wake up and revoke all such draconian laws?

from:  Viswanath
Posted on: Feb 23, 2012 at 09:47 IST

Is it legal to tap phones without permision from the court's permission. would it clash with the privacy laws of the country?
Will it be misused by the personnel who man the system to gather evidence illegaly, entrap and settle political scores.
I think we are inching towards a totalitarian system in order to hide the real and perceived wrong doing of the establishment. In western democracies the government will never be able to do this. The people will not allow it.

from:  vijay sankar
Posted on: Feb 23, 2012 at 06:36 IST

This is really good when it comes to security of the nation. All the
calls of politicians, business giants, gangs phone should be tapped.
Similar policy had been implemented way long back in USA, post 9/11.
Hope our politicians will not twist politicise this.

from:  BABU
Posted on: Feb 23, 2012 at 04:51 IST

The potential of phone-tapping to detect and prevent potential crime was first highlighted in 1970 by Lawrence Sanders in his best selling novel "The Anderson Tapes." It was made in to a movie in 1971.
It is high time India adopted ethical use of such technologies for public good, viz., prevention of terrorist acts and detection of corruption in high places.

from:  Poligar
Posted on: Feb 23, 2012 at 04:12 IST

That's good!, but who will monitor the people who will monitor the calls
?.. I mean the Person from Political Party-A will be interested in calls
made by person from another Party. I am okay with my privacy gone to the
winds, but what about scientists, doctors discussing about a political
persons health, Activists working for Indian Citizen's welfare ? Can of
Worms, I'll say.

from:  Vignesh B
Posted on: Feb 23, 2012 at 03:28 IST

Monitoring phone calls is becoming essential in today's world when most
of the crimes are planned without meeting physically. But government
must ensure that this kind of technology is not misused by the agency
which is solely responsible for monitoring. Strict rules should be
formulated to ensure safety of the country simultaneously respecting
privacy of law-abiding citizens.

from:  Anupam Sain
Posted on: Feb 23, 2012 at 02:08 IST

Does the government do this for national security or to prevent another embarrassing leak of corporate lobbying and political link a la the radia tapes being publicized! My guess is its the latter.

from:  sriram
Posted on: Feb 23, 2012 at 02:06 IST

Strike on Democracy. What is the law that the govt abides by on this ?

from:  victor
Posted on: Feb 23, 2012 at 00:31 IST
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