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[liberationtech] The Indian government circumvents telcos to tap phones

Samujjal (Shayan) Purkayastha me at
Wed Feb 22 21:54:22 PST 2012

can directly access your phone chat soonSandeep Joshi

Secure tapping mechanism ready; sequel to Radia tape leak

Soon the Centre would have direct access to all your telephone
conversations as the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has developed
capabilities to intercept phones without keeping your operator in the loop.
Currently, trials are on in Delhi and Haryana through a main server
established in the national capital. It would take another 12 months before
the system is officially operational.Alarmed by the leak in the corporate
lobbyist Niira Radia phone-tapping case, the Centre at the highest level
decided to set up a Central Monitoring System (CMS) to tap calls without
the interference of telecom service providers. Subsequently, the DoT's
Telecom Enforcement, Resource and Monitoring (TREM) Cell along with the
Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DoT) was asked to develop the
project for which Rs.170 crore was earmarked. After almost one year, the
CMS is ready and being tested.

*Exclusive facility*

“This is the DoT's exclusive facility that would assist intelligence and
security agencies, besides strategic government departments in
phone-tapping,” a senior DoT official said. The DoT would be required to
set up separate servers in each State, depending upon the requirements and
the number of subscribers. While the facility in Delhi and adjoining States
are likely to be ready by year-end, it might take at least another couple
of years before servers are established across India.

*Complex system*

The present system of phone-tapping is a complex one as eight intelligence
and investigating agencies wanting to snoop on anybody's phone are required
to approach the Union Home Ministry for clearance with specific reasons.
Armed with necessary clearances, the department officials would then
approach the telecom operators for tapping phones. It is feared that the
loopholes in the current process led to the leakage of the Radia tapes.

*Total control*

However, in the new mechanism, the DoT will have total control of a tapped
line, giving telecom firms no access to the intercepted line. Another
important aspect of the new centralised system is that irrespective of
operators, lines would be tapped at one location, which will be manned
round-the-clock by officials of the government agencies.
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