Fearing for your privacy? How you can secure your personal data, offline & online

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New Delhi | Published: December 21, 2018 4:32:05 PM

With the government making inroads in reducing the privacy blanket among the encrypted apps, it has become even more important to take some time and check the personal information that you have shared across the Internet

Government on Friday allowed 10 agencies to snoop on computer

As many as 10 government agencies can now tap your computer, if necessary, for the data you hoard, besides monitoring, deciphering, and decrypting it. The Ministry of Home Affairs has issued a notification, dated December 20, that authorises 10 agencies run by the government to carry out “interception, monitoring, and decryption” of any information that is “generated, transmitted, received, or stored” on any computer in the country. With this move, the government has come in for criticism over what activists and analysts have termed as a violation of privacy.

The government agencies that have been authorised to snoop on any computer are – Intelligence Bureau, Narcotics Control Bureau, Enforcement Directorate, Central Board of Direct Taxes, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Central Bureau of Investigation, National Investigation Agency, Cabinet Secretariat (RAW), Directorate of Signal Intelligence, and Commissioner of Police in Delhi. The owner of a computer resource should also mandatorily facilitate the inquiry made by the authorities, failing to do which may result in a fine or seven years imprisonment.

In the past, the government had even asked internet firms to allow some kind of technology that can be used to access the origin of messages. WhatsApp, the most popular chat app in the world that has over 200 million users in India, was in a headlock over the government’s request to impart traceability of messages to agencies. This, in turn, resulted in WhatsApp resisting it as it would defy the principle of end-to-end encryption on the platform that ensures no message shared in a chat is accessible to third parties or even the company itself.

Ravi Shankar Prasad, IT Minister, has clarified that the government’s diktat to allow 10 agencies to trespass your privacy on a machine is a step closer to keeping a check on national security. He told media late Friday that ISIS is using the Internet to spread radicalism in India, which needs to be checked.

With the government making inroads in reducing the privacy blanket among the encrypted apps, it has become even more important to take some time and check the personal information that you have shared across the Internet or even stored on your personal devices. Let’s quickly go through the steps you should follow to make sure your personal data is safe with you.

  • Before you even think of securing the data, you should consider that the notification to the government agencies to snoop on your computers could be to trace any activity of suspicion or to use the data in some kind of investigation for a case that requires necessary evidence. Keeping this in mind, you should ensure that you do not possess any files, data, or records that are prohibited under the law.
  • You should store your data mostly on the cloud. Today, everybody who uses the Internet has an email account, preferably that of Google that is required to sign into an Android device that Indians use the most. Storing the data locally is outdated, more so because of the machine perils such as unexpected crash and irregular booting. There are several cloud services available in India that users can sign up for – Google One (Drive), Microsoft’s OneDrive, Dropbox, Box, AWS cloud, and many other P2P file transfer cloud clients.
  • Always visit the websites that have been upgraded to the HTTPS Internet security standard. While there are many websites that still don’t offer a secure connection, there are chances some of those websites are not harmful. You should look for the security symbol located at the extreme left on the URL bar in the browser. In no circumstances, you should navigate to the websites that are flagged potentially harmful by the browser. Moreover, the websites that are not ‘private’ should also be avoided going to.

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