What was a theoretical possibility became a reality on Friday as the government authorised 10 central agencies, including the Intelligence Bureau, the Narcotics Control Bureau, the Enforcement Directorate and the Central Bureau of Investigation to intercept, monitor and decrypt any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer in the country.
The 10 agencies include Intelligence Bureau, Narcotics Control Bureau, Enforcement Directorate, Central Board of Direct Taxes, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence;, Central Bureau of Investigation, National Investigation Agency Cabinet Secretariat (RAW), Directorate of Signal Intelligence (For service areas of Jammu & Kashmir, North-East and Assam only), and Commissioner of Police, Delhi.
Highlights of the Order:
- The ministry has vested the authority on the agencies under Section 69 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 and Rule 4 of the Information Technology Procedure and Safeguards for Interception, Monitoring and Decryption of Information) Rules, 2009.
- The order mandates for a subscriber or service provider or any person in charge of the computer resource to extend technical assistance to the agencies.
- Non-compliance will invite seven-year imprisonment and fine.
- Only data in motion could be intercepted earlier. But now data revived, stored and generated can also be intercepted as powers of seizure have been given. This means not just calls or emails, but any data found on a computer can be intercepted. The agencies will also have powers to seize the devices. The sweeping powers given to agencies to snoop phone calls and computers without any checks and balances are extremely worrisome. This is likely to be misused.