The Indian government, after rolling out Centralized Monitoring System (CMS) to monitor all phone and internet communications in the country in April this year, has now introduced Netra- for internet surveillance.
Netra has been developed by Centre for Artificial Intelligence & Robotics (CAIR), a lab under Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO). The system is currently in testing phase under Intelligence Bureau and Cabinet Secretariat.
This new system will allow detection of words like ‘attack’, ‘bomb’, ‘blast’ or ‘kill’ in seconds from any kind of tweets, status updates, emails, blogs and forums. Also, it can track voice messages over platforms like Skype or Google Talk.
As per the reports, the recent move aims at carving a path ahead for a national internet scanning & coordination centre, which India plans to establish along the lines of existing facilities in the UK, US, China and Iran.
Till date, the Indian government has taken a lot of steps towards pre-screening of internet content which has led to resistance from the users worldwide. This includes DOT blocking 39 websites supposedly targeting inflammatory content, Central monitoring system keeping track of any electronic communication in real time without informing the target, National Cyber Coordination Centre (NCCC) giving law enforcement agencies direct access to all Internet accounts, be it e-mails, blogs or social networking data and many more.
All the above measures can be deemed a violation of the democratic country’s basic fundamental right, the ‘Right to speak’ and thereby placing its overall internet freedom at an unchanged status of ‘Partly Free’ since 2009 in the recent Freedom House report.
Netra seems to be a similar initiative. While it seems like an attempt towards strengthening national security and a step by the government to curb terrorism, there is no denying the fact that it borders on a breach of the citizens’ freedom of expression over the Internet. This kind of unchecked and unnotified surveillance will always hamper the ease and comfort of speaking and expressing personal sentiments online.
Also, we already have an ongoing debate on NSA surveillance, with world leaders like Google, Facebook and Microsoft joining hands to bring a change in government’s policies. Here are some tweets showing reactions of people upon targeting India for NSA spying:
India's prime minister is totally unconcerned about NSA spying because he has no cell phone and no email account http://t.co/SxTA3UyqZv
— Shashank Bengali (@SBengali) October 28, 2013
Surveillance never sleeps. NSA targets India. Rights groups see serious violations of ppl’s privacy & personal data. http://t.co/F97fTADLDP
— Thomas Drake (@Thomas_Drake1) September 23, 2013
So, where will this new internet spy system of the government will lead the thoughts of the masses, will be seen in the time to come.
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