India has taken up web snooping issue with US

New Delhi, June 13 (IANS) Acting on its concern and surprise at the internet data mining by US intelligence agencies, including from India, the Indian government has taken up the issue with the US envoy, government sources said Thursday.

National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon, who also helms the India-US cyber security dialogue along with his US counterpart, took up the issue on Monday when he met US Ambassador Nancy Powell. The issue was discussed along with other bilateral matters, the source said.

Revelations of US’s data mining has shocked the world and many countries have slammed the move.

India on Tuesday said that it would be “unacceptable” if it is discovered that Indian laws on privacy have been violated by the surveillance launched on web users worldwide by US’s intelligence service, the National Security Agency (NSA).

India is “waiting for clarifications” on the issue from the US, the source added.

During his meeting with Powell, Menon sought to know details of the internet snooping and was told that the US is “not in a position to tell us” at the moment.

When the details are available, these would be evaluated to see whether any Indian citizen’s rights and Indian privacy laws have been violated, the source added.

The surveillance programme, codenamed PRISM, has given the National Security Agency access to emails, web chats and other communications from companies such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and Skype, according to documents leaked to the Washington Post and Britain’s Guardian newspaper.

On Tuesday, external affairs ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said at a media briefing in answer to a query that “if it is discovered that Indian laws relating to privacy of information of ordinary Indian citizens have been violated, we would find it unacceptable”.

According to reports, India is one of the top five countries that are widely monitored by US intelligence services. According to Britain’s Guardian newspaper, the US National Security Agency collects 6.3 billion pieces of computer data from India each year. The US collects data from what is called unfriendly countries.

India emerged as the fifth most tracked country by the US intelligence.

The Guardian claims to have acquired top secret documents about the US National Security Agency’s data-mining tool, called Boundless Informant. The tool details and even maps by country the voluminous amount of information it collects from computer and telephone networks.

According to the report, the largest amount of intelligence was gathered from Iran, with more than 14bn reports, followed by 13.5bn from Pakistan. Jordan came third with 12.7bn, Egypt fourth with 7.6bn and India fifth with 6.3bn.

Former CIA worker Edward Snowden revealed to the Washington Post and the Guardian that the US agency has been using tech giants Microsoft, Google, Apple, Yahoo, Facebook, Skype and YouTube to spy on private information of users around the world. The PRISM programme, which has been in operation since 2007, is aimed to monitor foreign communications that take place on US servers.

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