The Centre has “lawful right to intercept” to curb terrorism and other activities, said Union Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology Rajeev Chandrashekhar Friday. He added that the Centre was working on a new framework of laws to address digital privacy.
The statements came a day after the Supreme Court said the committee appointed by it to probe allegations of unauthorised use of Israeli firm NSO Group’s Pegasus software for surveillance found no conclusive evidence on the use of the spyware in phones examined by it. However, to the apex court’s remarks that the Central Government did not cooperate with the probe, the minister noted that almost all phones and computers are vulnerable to what is referred to as “Zero Day Exploits” (ZDE) used by “ethical and unethical people”.
“What I have come to know is that from the 29 mobile phones they have found, five have malware. We cannot find out which one of 12 ZDE is there, the hacker only knows it. It is difficult to pinpoint whose malware and what malware (is there). In the technology space… there are many ZDE that are being used by ethical and unethical people. The Central government has got lawful right to intercept… in terms of national security to curb terrorism and other activities,” Chandrashekhar, who was on a two-day tour to Surat since Thursday, told The Indian Express.
“The reality of technology today is that almost every phone or computer is vulnerable to ZDE both in Android and iOS. When the Pegasus issue was raised by the opposition, there were 8 ZDE on iOS that have been documented. Similarly, in Android, there were around 10 to 12 ZDE. It is for the phone and device manufacturers to get them (the devices) updated,” Chandrashekhar said.
Further, the minister said the Centre had to withdraw the Personal Data Protection Bill “as it has become too complex and creates a lot of compliance or burdens on small companies”. “We are coming up with a new comprehensive framework of laws that will be the catalyst for the ‘India techade’. The current IT Act is 22 years old. We are coming up with a modern framework of laws that will address digital privacy. Our objective is global standard cyber laws that will address all other opportunities of the internet and include significant policy for boosting Artificial Intelligence and emerging technologies,” he said.
He said the Centre has targetted increasing production of electronics to Rs 21 lakh crore and exports worth Rs 8 lakh crore by 2025-26. “In 2021-22, electronic phones, including that of Samsung, Apple and other brands, worth Rs 20,000 crore were manufactured and exported from India. With the announcement of the semiconductor policy in December 2021, the idea is that we will become an electronics power in the coming times. We simultaneously work on the production of semiconductors, which is the main component of electronics. He (PM Modi) had announced that the government will invest Rs 76,000 crore for the semiconductor policy”, said Chandrashekhar.
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Upcoming G20 meetings
With India to assume the presidency of G-20 from December 1, Chandrasekhar said the country will focus on how technology is being used by the government to change citizens’ lives to improve democracy and governance. “There are a large number of public technology platforms or government platforms such as Aadhaar, UPI Bhim App, GST information network, Aarogya Setu and digi-lockers, created in the past six years. We have made these so that people can experience government and governance better.
India can provide such technology platforms to other countries who cannot afford to do it on their own. India can be the provider of digital government solutions to the rest of the world. We will showcase that we are ready to become technology partners of African countries, South American countries, etc, where there is a lack of capable technology systems,” the minister elaborated.