Licence to Spy: 10 Central Agencies Allowed to Snoop On Your Computer Now

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The government order listing 10 central agencies such as the Intelligence Bureau, CBI and the income tax department had been issued a day earlier under a 2009 rule under the information technology law.

The notification by the home ministry’s cyber and information security wing, signed by home secretary RK Gauba, authorizes the 10 agencies to intercept, monitor and decrypt any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer.

An order to the effect was issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs on December 20. The MHA gave the authorization under 69 (1) of the Information Technology Act, 2000. 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.

Under the IT Act, the 10 notified agencies can be ordered to intercept any information transmitted through any computer resource, if required for the country’s sovereignty and integrity, security, friendly relations with a foreign power, preventing incitement for committing an offence and to maintain public order. The government has stated that this was done as there was “essentially an anomaly in law.”

“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 report added. As per the report, earlier IB had no power to seize devices but now it can. The notification made it clear that any subscriber or service provider person in charge of any computer resource is bound to extend all facilities and technical assistance to these agencies. In case any person or entity refuses to cooperate, it “will face seven years in jail and a fine”.

Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala tweeted: “This time, attack on privacy”. “Modi Govt mocks and flouts Fundamental ‘Right to Privacy’ with brazen impunity! Having lost elections, now wants to scan/snoop your computers? ‘Big Brother Syndrome’ is truly embedded in NDA’s DNA!,” tweeted Surjewala. “The sweeping powers given to agencies to snoop phone calls and computers without any checks and balances is extremely worrisome. This is likely to be misused.