Say that servers based in India will prevent US agencies from accessing data

Indian internet companies have urged the Government to ask Google, Facebook and other American Web sites to set up local servers.

This demand comes after recent media reports that the US Government was using these Web sites to snoop into users’ online activityacross the globe.

According to the Internet Service Providers Association of India, the Government should insist on keeping data from Indian within the country through local hosting of servers. Rajesh Chharia, President of the Association, told Business Line that “Quite a few Internet companies, members of ISPAI, have expressed their deep concern of their customers.

“The members want us to take immediate measures such as insisting upon Indian users’ privacy to be protected from any such misadventure of any intelligence departments.”

The Association has written to various Government authorities on the issue. It has been lobbying to get a level playing field with foreign Net companies. While Indian firms have to get a licence and pay the Government a revenue share for offering services such as Internet telephony, foreign players like Skype are offering the same service without any licensing on grounds that their servers are located in the US. According to reports in the US media, the National Security Agency (NSA) has been able to snoop into data — including e-mails, videos, pictures, social networking details, and connection logs — from the main servers of Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Apple, Facebook, Skype and other major US tech companies.

Under a highly classified US programme, named PRISM, security agencies were able to snoop into customers’ of these web sites who live outside the US.

The Union Government has also been looking to track Internet user behaviour through a system called Internet Protocol Detail Record.

The Department of Telecom plans to make it mandatory for telecom and Internet service providers to store data records of all subscribers.

This system tracks the usage pattern and allows security agencies to track those who mask their IP address.

Telecom companies, however, said that rather than insisting on local hosting or blanket access to networks, the Government should come up with detailed guidelines under which law enforcement agencies can track specific users.

Rajan Mathews, Director-General, Cellular Operators Association of India, said: “Even if you had local servers the security agencies won’t be able to decrypt the data. The better solution would be to put in place proper guidelines that would on the one hand protect the privacy of general consumers, but, on the other, allow law agencies to get access to specific targets.”

thomas.thomas@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on June 8, 2013)
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