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Digital surveillance programs in other countries trigger controversy

IDG News Service staff | June 17, 2013
Details about surveillance programs in the UK, Germany and India are sketchy, but the US is not alone in electronic data collection

If the AIVD classifies one U.S. email address as suspicious, the service is able to learn everything about the related person, the source told the paper. The AIVD gets full cooperation from the U.S. through liaisons, the source said. All big commercial Internet services are forced to provide an application allowing secret services unlimited browsing, the source told the paper.

"The Dutch government never provides information about how intelligence services work," said Ivo Opstelten, the minister of security and justice, in a debate in the Dutch Lower House on Tuesday about how the U.S. government can access Dutch citizens' data using Prism. "And we never provide information about cooperation with foreign services."

Opstelten avoided answering a question from Member of Parliament Gerard Schouw, who asked the minister if the U.S. has unlimited access to Dutch citizen data via Prism.

On Tuesday, Dutch digital rights organization Bits of Freedom (BoF) called on Dutch intelligence services and the government "to put an end to this eavesdropping scandal as soon as possible." The group called Opstelten's appearance in the Lower House a "disappointing farce."

In India, residents are grappling with privacy issues as the country plans to roll out its Central Monitoring System (CMS) to track communications on its networks.

The Indian government has said it needs a surveillance system to monitor suspected terrorists. Asking telephone carriers to intercept calls presented its own security risks, officials have said.

Milind Deora, India's minister of state for communications and IT, confirmed earlier this month that CMS was being rolled out. Politicians and bureaucrats and even the officer in charge of the CMS, who will take orders from law enforcement agencies to intercept conversations, will not have access to the surveillance information, Deora said during a live session on Google+ Hangouts.

Critics have said that CMS — which aims to collect metadata and other information in real time — will compromise privacy."It is not covered under any law, nor is it evidently prohibited under any specific law in the country," said Pranesh Prakash, policy director at The Center for Internet and Society, a research organization in Bangalore focused on privacy and digital rights.

The country has rules under various laws including the Indian Telegraph Act and the Information Technology Act that govern the interception and monitoring of certain communications. The rules require law enforcement to specify the objective of its surveillance, and does not allow broad surveillance of large numbers of users.

"They can make it a little broader than interception of the communications of a particular person, but they can't specify something as broad as, say, all telephone calls between two cities over a particular period," Prakash said.


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