Indian government wants to tap into your WhatsApp messages, other social media

  • Information and Broadcasting Ministry to set up a hub to collect, analyse citizens’ digital and social media data.
  • SC said that it will be “like creating a surveillance state”.
  • SC issued a notice and sought a reply from the Centre within two weeks.
On Friday, the Supreme Court strongly reacted to the decision of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry to set up a social media hub for monitoring online data. The hub would collect and analyse citizens’ social media content and digital platform data like blogs and news. SC noted that the government also wants to tap the citizens’ WhatsApp messages and observed that it will be “like creating a surveillance state”.

Recently, the Broadcast Engineering Consultants India Limited (BECIL), a public sector undertaking under the ministry, had floated a tender to supply software for the project that would create this hub and build a “single system providing real-time insights, metrics and other valuable data”.

Under the project, media persons would be employed for every district to be the “eyes and ears” of the government and they would need to provide real-time updates from their location. The document mentions that the platform is expected to provide automated reports, tactical insights and comprehensive work-flows on initiating engagement across digital channels.

On a plea made by All India Trinamool Congress (AITC) legislator, Mahua Moitra, the apex court issued a notice to the Centre and sought a reply on the matter, within two weeks.

Moitra’s advocate informed the court that the government has issued A request for proposals and the tender for creating the hub shall be opened on 20 August. “They want to monitor social media content with the help of this social media hub,” the advocate said, pointing out that this will be done by tracking their social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and their e-mails.

The bench then said it is listing the matter for 3 August, before the tender is opened and the Attorney-General or any law officer from the government will be assisting the court in the matter.

This is not the first time that the court is hearing such a plea. On 18 June this year, the court had been requested an urgent hearing on similar issues without much resulting from it.