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India plans its own net snoop system

Indian IMP pilot for mid-2010

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On the anniversary of the Mumbai terror attacks, the Indian government has announced its own version of the UK's Interception Modernisation Programme (IMP) - a massive expansion of communications surveillance for the internet age.

A pilot of the Centralised Monitoring System (CMS) will begin by June next year, communications minister Gurudas Kamat said on Thursday.

Like IMP, CMS will see a network of monitoring probes inserted throughout the country's fixed line and wireless communications networks.

Again like the British project, which is scheduled for completion in 2016, CMS probes will be configured centrally and allow intelligence and law enforcement agencies to easily intercept calls, texts and internet sessions.

"In the existing system secrecy can be easily compromised due to manual intervention at many stages while in CMS these functions will be performed on secured electronic link and there will be minimum manual intervention," Kamat told the upper house of India's legislature.

The system will also create huge silos of communications data (who contacts whom, when, where and how) to be analysed and mined. But while UK ministers plan to outsource storage and initial processing to ISPs and phone companies, the Indian government plans its own series of regional and central databases.

Planning for CMS was begun in 2007, but has gained momentum in the wake of the Mumbai attacks, when the terrorists received orders via VoIP.

The laws needed to legitimise such a system here are not expected to be introduced until the next Parliament. A Home Office consultation on its plans over summer attracted a very negative response from the communications industry. ®

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