India Uncut

This blog has moved to its own domain. Please visit for the all-new India Uncut and bookmark it. The new site has much more content and some new sections, and you can read about them here and here. You can subscribe to full RSS feeds of all the sections from here. This blogspot site will no longer be updated, except in case of emergencies, if the main site suffers a prolonged outage. Thanks - Amit.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Big Brother wants to watch you

Ajit Balakrishnan, the CEO of Rediff, has an enlightening article in Business Standard about the regular requests he gets from the government to "track" certain email accounts. He writes:
For the hundred years from 1885, the year that the British Raj introduced the telegraph system in India, it was seen primarily as an instrument for keeping colonial control. And I guess from Independence till the mid 1990s, the post-colonial government continued this perspective and added to this the function of spying on political opponents. All that a politician or a bureaucrat had to do was call up the posts and telegraphs department and tapping would commence unhindered, with no one to raise legal or civil rights issues.

Things have become complicated for the government since then. The new technologies of email, SMS text messages and mobile phones today carry most communication traffic in India and practically all of it is in the private sector. A generation like ours no longer assumes that the police’s or the Home Ministry’s interests are automatically the national interest. We want to make sure that even the police and the Home Ministry observe the law in tapping email and phones. Unfortunately, there is no law that covers the new technologies and balances civil rights with genuine national security needs. Nor is there a clear process that tells the new economy industries how to resolve a conflict between the two.
Indeed, from an oppressive British goverment we moved to an oppressive Indian government: that's the good Independence did us -- it gave us national pride, in that we were ruled by our own people, but not true freedom. However, as I optimistically concluded in my last WSJ piece, perhaps things have started to change. Balakrishnan's column, outlining Rediff's do-no-evil philosophy (even if that phrase is Google copyright now!), is an illustration of that.

(Link via email from reader Jayakamal Balasubramani.)
amit varma, 4:58 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage

I recommend: