The North Block of India's Cabinet Secretariat, via Wikipedia
India, the country with the second largest population in the world, has been doing a lot of emerging superpower things lately. Bollywood films have breached overseas 10 top lists, and the country's navy recently launched its first aircraft carrier to rival its neighbors. Oh, and India's also been spying on its internet users.
Indian newspaper The Hindu reports that the Indian government has been surveilling its 160 million Internet users “in violation of the government’s own rules and notifications for ensuring ‘privacy of communications’” by way of its Center for Development of Telematics (D-DOT). Through the use of its Lawful Intercept and Monitoring (LIM) systems, the government has allegedly been monitoring—in real time—Skype calls, emails, web browsing, and... pretty much all internet traffic, really.
The government has been doing all of this without telling any of the Internet Service Providers (ISP) in India it is doing so. Reports The Hindu:
“The LIM system, in effect, has access to 100% of all Internet activity, with broad surveillance capability, based not just on IP or email addresses, URLs, fttps, https, telenet, or webmail, but even through a broad and blind search across all traffic in the Internet pipe using “key words” and “key phrases.”
Those following surveillance news will find this LIM system sounding eerily similar to that dreaded Central Monitoring System (CMS) India is supposedly implementing soon. In July, TechDirt wrote that India’s CMS made the US government and PRISM “look as if they're just not applying themselves” because India's system gave nine different government agencies live access to anyone’s internet activities. Agencies with access include India’s tax department.
Well, according to The Hindu, this is exactly what LIM does, and is also accessible by nine government agencies, which would suggest the CMS is already up and running.
Back in 2010, the Indian government threatened to ban the sale of BlackBerrys because the company refused to give the government access to user data and information. In July, the Canadian company reached an agreement with the Indian government regarding a LIM system, and issued the following statement:
The lawful access capability now available to Blackberry's carrier partners meets the standard required by the government of India for all consumer messaging services offered in the Indian marketplace.
ISPs and mobile carriers operating in India have their own LIM systems, which comply with Section 5(2) of the Indian Telegraph Act and Rule 419(A) of the IT Rules. Since 2006, ISP providers are supposed to have a "nodal officer" that acts as a liason with government authorities on their interception requests.
The government’s current mass surveillance LIM system does not abide by these rules, making the use of the word “lawful” in the acronym just a tad bit ironic.