Centre for Internet & Society

The Government is set to harden its stand against foreign Internet firms in asking them to comply with Indian laws.

The article by Thomas K Thomas was published in the Hindu Business Line on June 10, 2013. Sunil Abraham is quoted.

According to a top Government source, an advisory may be issued in the interest of general public to make them aware of the privacy issued while using services offered by foreign Internet companies such as Google and Facebook.

This follows an international media expose on how US agencies were getting access to user data from Internet companies such as Google and Facebook.

Final Strategy Soon

Top official in the Ministry of Telecom and IT told Business Line that the National Security Advisor, under the Prime Minister’s Officer, is discussing the issue and will outline the final strategy on Wednesday.

The key concern is that the US security agencies may have collected data from key Indian accounts using services from any of the Internet companies. A number of Government officials also use email service from Google and MS Outlook, which may have been accessed by the US agencies.

The other major concern is that Indian security agencies have also been seeking access to data from these foreign companies but so far they have not obliged on grounds that they do not come under the purview of Indian laws.

“If the US Government can get access to data from these companies, why can’t the Indian Government be given access,” posed a top functionary of the telecom ministry.

While Google and other companies have denied knowledge to how the US agencies got access to their networks, industry experts said that it’s time India starts taking concrete steps to address the issue.

B.K. Syngal, Former Chairman, Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd, said, “If we believed that our privacy is sacred then we would have taken effective domestic measures, years ago, to ensure that the information of our citizens remains private. To now say that multiple US companies have betrayed our trust is meaningless.”

Double Standards

Syngal said that there are double standards in the way organisations and Government is handling the issue. “As a start, lets stop giving too much time and space to the so called “Foreign Funded NGOs” teaching us on privacy. Our problem is that we are not China. We are so ill equipped that the third party interests aided and abetted by these NGOs would prevail,” said Syngal.

According to Sunil Abraham, Executive Director, Centre for Internet and Society, companies such as Google and Facebook are foes when it comes to privacy issues and friends when it comes to freedom of speech. “An Indian consumer using any of these foreign websites has no privacy rights whatsoever. The Indian Government also cannot force these companies to follow Indian laws,” said Abraham.