Thursday, June 24, 2010

India Is Engaging In Citizen Profiling And E-Surveillance Activities

Ram K Kaushik

India has been pushing “unconstitutional projects” in the name of welfare schemes and national interest. Projects like Aadhar/UID project, Natgrid, CCTNS, etc are simply illegal and unconstitutional. Even the Natgrid project has been stalled due to lack of procedural safeguards and adequate privacy protection. Similarly, Aadhar project and UIDAI are both not governed by any law at all.

Indian government is imposing unconstitutional project upon Indians with blatant violation of their civil liberties. This was the main reason for the launch of Human Rights Centre of India so that it can protect civil liberties of Indians in cyberspace. The Centre started keeping a close eye upon the unconstitutional projects like Aadhar, Natgrid, CCTNS, etc. Simultaneously, a separate initiative titled “Aadhar Watch Initiative” was also launched to analyse the constitutionality of the aadhar project.

The real reasons for the launch of projects like Aadhar are to enhance e-surveillance capabilities of India that also without any procedural safeguards. At the same time to provide unregulated and unreasonable e-surveillance, Internet censorship and website blocking powers upon itself and its agencies, Indian government amended the sole cyber law of India i.e. information technology act 2000 (IT Act 2000) through the information technology amendment act 2008 (IT Act 2008).

However, Indian government and its agencies cannot achieve these unconstitutional tasks without having a complete control over information, both online and offline. For online information, it is forcing tech companies like Google to screen online contents. Some of my colleagues have constantly maintained that many of their news reports have been systematically deleted by Google India. Although we considered it to be a technical glitch yet now we are sure that they were neither accidental nor technical glitch. We would provide a techno-legal analysis of this censorship by any concerned person or company very soon.

As far as offline information is concerned, project like Aadhar, Natgrid, National Census, etc would provide complete database of Indian citizens and those residing in India. This is the real reason why projects like Aadhar have been imposed even despite stiff resistance from civil liberty activists. Even Nandan Nilekani has adopted the method of bureaucratisation by promising for a privacy and data protection law for Aadhar project and UIDAI but delivering nothing but loud and empty words.

Meanwhile, the Indian government “once again” announced that it would enact data protection and privacy law for India. It seems the government of India has finally accepted the suggestions of Praveen Dalal in this regard, at least in letter if not spirit.

It is surprising that Indians are so gullible that they do not understand the purpose of these unconstitutional projects. With a complete control over the information of Indian citizens, their lives would be a real hell as we are not governed by a good government and intelligent bureaucracy. Choice is yours: protest or face the consequences.