Post Prism, the Indian government has started showing concern about online security of its netizens. Last week Guardian revealed that the National Security Agency has obtained direct access to the systems of Google, Facebook, Apple and other US internet giants. It was also reported that the NSA access is part of a previously undisclosed program called Prism, which allows officials to collect material including search history, the content of emails, file transfers and live chats. While the news was being criticized and debated, Indian Intelligence Bureau has raised security concerns against Chinese mobile messaging app – WeChat.

WeChat India Facebook

The story that was reported by The Hindu Business Line states that the intelligence agency has told the National Security Advisor that such messaging platforms were raising new cyber threats. The matter is being taken seriously and sources say that the matter will be investigated by the Ministry of Home Affairs along with the Department of Telecom. The joint investigation will decide the fate of the messaging apps functioning in India.

The latest worry for the security agencies has also multiplied as WeChat is a messaging app from China’s Tencent and of late has been focussing extensively on India. The fear being there could be chances that the Chinese government may be accessing data with the help of Tencent. A similar process reported by the Guardian was followed by the US to collect 6.3 billion data from India in March 2013 through its National Security Agency (NSA)’s Prism program by tapping into the servers of companies such as Google, Facebook, Apple, Yahoo, Microsoft, for information including search history, the content of emails, file transfers and live chats.

Struggle with the messaging apps

Social messaging apps have been a worry for India since a while now. Initially it was Blackberry’s BBM service which started facing the heat from 2010 by the Indian Government, which settled after Blackberry agreed to set up a local server in Mumbai. Later we saw the case with WhatsApp where the Securities and Exchange Board of India SEBI had found out that WhatsApp was being increasingly used to spread sensitive market related information to influence certain stocks. The regulator has been seriously looking to tackle the problem.

Though there has been an official statement from Tencent on the matter, which states that it takes data protection seriously and also abides by the local laws, it would be interesting to see what the investigations state.

It is good that the Indian government is being alert on online privacy matters and planning to request Internet giants to set up local servers in India but what about a privacy law needed for its citizens?

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