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India's centralised snooping system facing big delays

Central Monitoring System lacks algorithms, database and data

After recent revelations about governments snooping on their own citizens, it's nice to know that not every such effort is going smoothly, as India’s much criticised NSA-style Centralised Monitoring System (CMS) is facing big delays after it emerged that the project is still missing the vital software which will allow analysts to search comms data.

The nation's Department of Telecommunications has now told the Center for Development of Telematics (C-DoT), which is installing the system, to speed things up, according to official documents seen by the Wall Street Journal.

The Rs.4 billion (£47.8m) CMS was originally conceived as a way of allowing the authorities to lawfully intercept voice calls and texts, emails, social media and the geographical location of individuals.

However, the Intelligence Bureau, which will be manning the system, has delayed its introduction for several reasons.

Firstly, mobile operators in only seven of the sub-continent’s 22 service areas have been connected to the CMS, leaving holes in its reach.

There’s also a major issue in that the system currently lacks the search algorithms needed to identify specific documents, meaning that as it stands operatives would have to search every email in the CMS to find the one they’re looking for.

The datacentre where intercepted data is to be stored is also apparently not yet ready, while the country’s Central Bureau of Investigation has yet to be given access to the system, causing further delays.

At a time when mass government monitoring of communications networks is a hot topic around the world thanks to Edward Snowden’s NSA revelations, rights groups have roundly slammed India’s CMS plans.

Human Rights Watch branded the scheme “chilling” in a strongly worded response, while India’s Centre for Internet and Society warned that the country currently doesn’t have privacy laws which could protect individuals from potential abuse of the system.

A Stop ICMS campaign has also been launched online in an attempt to mobilise opposition to the plans. ®

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