THE DATABASE NATION, a.k.a India's State of Surveillance

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by Kaustubh Srikanth on Monday, January 20, 2014

Section
Society

Session type
Lecture

Technical level
Beginner

Objective

This talk will map and review the current political, socio-cultural and legal landscape of mass-surveillance, data protection and censorship in India and analyse how it ties in to the global landscape of surveillance and censorship. It will also aim to create a discussion space to investigate the deeper effects of these so called "welfare" projects and how citizen-led movements can drive the state towards stronger data protection and privacy laws.

Description

23rd of December 2008 was a sad day in India for civil liberties. On this day, The Indian Parliament passed the "The Information Technology (Amendment) Act" with no debate in the House, which effectively means is that the government of India now has the power to monitor all digital communications in the country without a court order or a warrant.

Section 69 of the act states, "Section 69 empowers the Central Government/State Government/ its authorized agency to intercept, monitor or decrypt any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer resource if it is necessary or expedient so to do in the interest of the sovereignty or integrity of India, defence of India, security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States or public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence or for investigation of any offence".

What this effectively means is that the government of India now has the power to monitor all digital communications in the country without a court order or a warrant.

Since then, India has gone on to setup several projects which leverage technology to freely collect, mine, share and commoditize citizen data, resulting in a massive intelligence network. These include the world’s largest biometric ID scheme (Aadhaar/UID), the Central Monitoring System(CMS), the Telephone Call Interception System (TCIS), a DNA data bank and the National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID).

The "world's largest democracy" strongly leaning towards becoming a surveillance state raises many questions and poses severe challenges for free speech and economic justice, not just in India but globally.

This talk will map and review the current political, socio-cultural and legal landscape of mass-surveillance, data protection and censorship in India and analyse how it ties in to the global landscape of surveillance and censorship. It will also aim to create a discussion space to investigate the deeper effects of these so called "welfare" projects and how citizen-led movements can drive the state towards stronger data protection and privacy laws.

Speaker bio

Kaustubh Srikanth is a hactivist, technologist and researcher based between Berlin and Bangalore. He is one of the lead organisers of the annual Open Data Camp in India and currently works as the Head of Technology at Tactical Tech (https://tacticaltech.org), an international NGO working to enable the effective use of information for progressive social change. He tweets as @houndbee.