Department of Telecom monitoring social networking sites – Facebook, Twitter profiles no longer private

In a development that could impact all Social Networking sites such as Facebook, Orkut or Tweeter, the Department of Telecom (DoT) has been directed by the Home Ministry of India to ensure effective monitoring in such sites.

This was stated by Milind Deora, the Minister of state for Communication and Information Technology in a written statement in the Rajya Sabha. Mr. Deora confirmed that the Department of Telecom (DoT) had received a letter from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) directing it to monitor all networking sites. This was done to ensure that cyber security is strengthened and all data in social networking sites accessible to the intelligence agencies.

This step by the ministry though being welcomed by many is set for some criticism. Two reasons why this might face some challenges are:

Definition Unavailability – There is no actual definition on the extent of monitoring that security or intelligence agencies can carry out in someone’s Facebook or Orkut profile. Unlike phone tapping which has trapped many culprits, there is no specific hard rules or guidelines to monitoring some one’s social networking profile and his private posts/ messages.

Loss of Time and Energy – If the authorities wants to go through each and every status update, tweet or “ what is in your mind”,  they are set for huge loss of resource, time and energy. For example, the United States Department of Defense has budgeted as high as 42 million dollars recently to monitor social networking sites, so as to identify terrorist threats and other security concerns. Millions and zillions of messages, status updates flows in and out from the profiles and the best thing that can be done is focusing on specific people (based on evidence or history).

It is to be mentioned that most popular social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook shares private information on their servers only when a court order is issued to do so. Besides, as per policy of Twitter if a user’s profile or private information is shared with Government authorities or security agencies, the user is informed.

Department of TelecomDoTFacebookMHAMilind DeoraMinistry of Home AffairsOrkutSocial Networking siteTwitter