Thursday, January 06, 2011

India - A new security law will ensure govt has access to all communications while preserving personal privacy

[express buzz] Taking lessons from continuing BlackBerry saga, India is planning to bring in a new law to bound telecom service providers for providing mandatory access to the security agencies.

The new law will be based on the US’s Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) that ropes in service providers with irrevocable conditions.

“We are closely examining CALEA and a similar law can be enacted in the country as early as in 2011,” said highly placed government sources.

At present, the security agencies can access the telecom services only under licensing agreement. The need for a separate law was felt after a stand-off with Research in Motion, the makers of BlackBerry phones which showed its reservation in allowing access to all heavily encrypted services - BBM and BES.

Tied by the licence agreement, the government is still continuing negotiations with the RIM.

The CALEA defines the existing statutory obligation of telecommunications carriers to assist law enforcement in executing electronic surveillance pursuant to court order or other lawful authorisation.

Through the new law, the government would like to preserve law enforcement’s ability to conduct lawfully authorised electronic surveillance while preserving public safety, people’s right to privacy and the telecommunications industry’s competitiveness.

The new law will ensure that the telecommunication carriers and manufacturers of telecommunications equipment will modify and design their equipment and services to ensure that they have built-in surveillance capabilities. The law will allow security agencies to monitor all telephone, broadband internet, and VoIP traffic in real-time

Its primary goal would be to ensure that law enforcement agencies have all the resources to access broadband ISP and interconnected voice over Internet protocol providers, sources said.

Apart from the new law, the government is also contemplating constituting Telecom Security Commission comprising representatives from Union Home Ministry, Department of Telecommunications and Telecom industry.

Law to bind telecom servicers provider soon

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