PRISM is the US’s National Security Agency’s program that carries out widespread and in-depth surveillance on all live communications and stored information of virtually everyone in the world. A program meant to spy on its citizens, was recently exposed and there have been widespread and anxious reactions from the netizens.
India has an alternative for PRISM said to be already deployed. The program called CMS or Central Monitoring System was introduced in Parliament in 2012 and was rolled out in April 2013. This system is meant to enable Indian Government to monitor all digital communications (phone, mobile, SMS, MMS, e-Mail, social networking sites, web browsing, etc.) in the country. Manned by IB (Intelligence Bureau), it provides our intelligence agencies including IB, RAW (Research and Analysis Wing), CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation), NIA (National Investigation Agency), ED (Enforcement Directorate), NCB (Narcotics Control Bureau) and CBDT (Central Board of Direct Taxes) a centralized access to our country’s telecom network bypassing the service providers. All of this has been backed by law. Information Technology Act 2000 was amended (in 2008 and 2011) to incorporate these practices.
Project cost is estimated to be around INR 4 Billion. TREM (Telecom Enforcement, Resource and Monitoring) and the C-DoT (Centre for Development of Telematics) have played a key role in designing and putting this system together.
Surprisingly we have not seen much media coverage about CMS.
Just like nuclear science, which can be effectively used in medicine for a very useful cause and at the same time can cause devastation through nuclear weapons, CMS too could be a dual edged sword. CMS will provide the much sought after edge in fighting terrorism, other insurgencies and many anti-social activities. On the other hand it might lead to netizens loosing their digital freedom.
I am of the opinion that this is a much needed support system for our intelligence agencies. None of my activities are such which I would hesitate to disclose if I have to. And for sure most of our fellow netizens falls in my category. Security of our data is probably the only thing that might be a matter of concern for people like me, but then our banks, mobile service providers and other providers who has access to our personal data are equally vulnerable.
I would give full credit to our Government for taking a master stride in digital surveillance, a step which possibly would help common citizens like me to feel more secure in the era where terrorism continues to leave a very dirty scar on our mind.