The Union home ministry has written to the department of telecom asking it to “ensure effective monitoring of Twitter and Facebook”.
Milind Deora, minister of state for communications and information technology, said in written reply to a question on Friday in the Rajya Sabha that DoT has received a letter from MHA to ensure monitoring of social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter in order to “strengthen cyber security paraphernalia”.
Deora told the Parliament “the telecom service providers (already) provide facilities for lawful interception and monitoring of communication flowing through their network including communications from social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter.”
He said that in cases where the data is encrypted, the department works with all concerned parties to obtain lawful access to it.
Citing security a reason, India in the recent months has sought more surveillance and monitoring from internet service providers as well as companies like Research In Motion, which sells BlackBerry phones capable of encrypted emails and messaging.
In April the government notified a new set of IT rules, virtually making intermediaries like internet service providers and web hosts and websites like Facebook and Twitter responsible for any wrongdoings on their networks. The rules were widely criticized by privacy activists.
Sunil Abraham, executive director of Centre for Internet and Society said these “blanket surveillance practices” are counterproductive.
“People advocating greater surveillance don’t understand how the web works. In some cases, if there is evidence, targeted monitoring can be done but if governments wants to go through each tweet and every status update, it’s just waste of money and resources. Agencies involved in monitoring can do better work by focusing on core issues. This will also save ordinary law-abiding citizens from unnecessary harassment,” said Abraham.
According to their policies, Twitter and Facebook don’t share any private information available on their servers without valid court order or subpoena. Twitter had said in the past that even if there was a court order, it would first inform the users in question before sharing information related to them.