Months after whistleblower Edward Snowden disclosed that snooping by United States intelligence agencies involved internet networks in India, the government has acknowledged that only metadata or the “origin-route-destination” of emails were tracked and not their “actual content”.
In a report “Cyber Crime, Cyber Security and Right to Privacy”, tabled in Parliament in the last session by the Standing Committee on Information Technology, the Secretary of the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DEITY) said that the government has been “assured that whatever data has been gathered by them for surveillance relates only to the metadata”. “It has been reiterated and stated at the highest level of the US President that only the metadata has been accessed, which is, the origin of the message and the receiving point, the destination and the route through which it has gone, but not the actual content itself,” the Secretary told the committee.
He said “this has been reiterated by them, but we expressed that any incursion into the content will not be tolerated and is not tolerable from Indian stand and point of view” and “that has been mentioned very clearly and firmly by our Government”. The committee, while taking note of DEITY’s stand that “incursion into the content of the country’s data will not be tolerated”, said that the “department should have exercised enough caution so that such a situation was not allowed to occur at the first instance”.
Asking the department to be “extremely vigilant and cautious” in terms of safety and policy with different countries so as to avoid “such leakage and interception of sensitive data in the name of surveillance”, the panel has called for “remedial measures” and “a policy which should be implemented stringently so as to obviate recurrence of such instances”.