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Indian Gov't Authorises Snooping on Countrymen, Opposition Decries

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It is the first time ever that the government has authorised 10 agencies to scan private computers for data that is stored on them. Earlier, only data in motion could be intercepted.

India's Narendra Modi government has given a free hand to 10 of the country's agencies to intercept, decrypt and monitor digital information on private computer devices. The order was issued on Thursday evening by the country's Home Ministry, which says that prior approval will not be required for intercepting, decrypting or monitoring digital information by these agencies. 

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10 central agencies have been equipped with the powers of "interception, monitoring, and decryption of any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer".

The agencies listed in the ministry's order are the Intelligence Bureau, Narcotics Control Bureau, Enforcement Directorate, Central Board of Direct Taxes, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, CBI, National Investigation Agency, Cabinet Secretariat (R&AW), Directorate of Signal Intelligence (in Jammu and Kashmir, North-East and Assam only) and the Delhi Police Commissioner. 

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The government has also authorized these agencies to seize the devices for investigation without taking any approval from any other authority. 

According to the notification, the subscriber or service provider or any person in charge of the computer resource is bound to extend all facilities and technical assistance to the agencies. If not, they can face 7 years in jail and a fine. 

Opposition parties of the country have decried the order. 

"We have two spies at the helm that want to peep into our bedrooms. They can lynch us anywhere. It is not an ordinary order. It is an anti-democratic order and hits out at our personal privacy", Congress leader Anand Sharma said outside the Parliament on Friday.

READ MORE: Indian Opposition Leader Denies Snooping on Independence Hero’s Family

The government gave the authorisation under 69 (1) of the Information Technology Act, 2000 which says that the central government can direct any agency after it is satisfied that it is necessary or expedient to do so 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 relating to above or for investigation of any offence".

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