More PRISM fallout: Indian government may ban Gmail use

Originally posted at: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/OmMalik/~3/DVRrlYALJ6g/

After Snowden's revelations, we can never be sure to what extent foreign governments are intercepting government emails”

— Sunil Abraham, executive director of the Centre for Internet and Society

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Indian government employees will soon be asked (told?) to stop using Gmail for official purposes, according the Indian Times which cited a senior official. Revelations that U.S.-based cloud providers, including Google, must turn over customer information to the National Security Agency, is a concern to foreign governments and companies and also to U.S. cloud players which worry that the controversy will cost them business. Looks like those fears are playing out.

The government will soon ask all its employees to stop using Google’s Gmail for official communication, a move intended to increase security of confidential government information after revelations of widespread cyberspying by the US.

A senior official in the ministry of communications and information technology said the government plans to send a formal notification to nearly 5 lakh employees barring them from email service providers such as Gmail that have their servers in the US, and instead asking them to stick to the official email service provided by India’s National Informatics Centre.

“Gmail data of Indian users resides in other countries as the servers are located outside. Currently, we are looking to address this in the government domain, where there are large amounts of critical data,” said J Satyanarayana, secretary in the department of electronics and information technology.

Snowden fallout

The move comes in the wake of revelations by former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden that the US government had direct access to large amounts of personal data on the internet such as emails and chat messages from companies like Google, Facebook and Apple through a programme called PRISM.

Documents leaked by Snowden showed that NSA may have accessed network infrastructure in many countries, causing concerns of potential security threats and data breaches. Even as the new policy is being formulated, there has been no mention yet of how compliance will be ensured.

Several senior government officials in India, including ministers of state for communications & IT Milind Deora and Kruparani Killi, have their Gmail IDs listed in government portals as their official email.

Sunil Abraham, executive director of Bangalore-based research firm Centre for Internet and Society, said he agrees with the government’s decision to ban Gmail for official communication and that any official violating this needs to be punished.

“After Snowden’s revelations, we can never be sure to what extent foreign governments are intercepting government emails,” he said. Abraham, however, called the government’s decision a “late reaction”, as the use of Gmail and other free email services by bureaucrats has increased in the past.

“Use of official government email would also make it easier to achieve greater transparency and anti-corruption initiatives. Ministers, intelligence and law enforcement officials should not be allowed to use alternate email providers under any circumstance.”


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