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Free email providers will need to have servers in India

Indian investigating agencies dealing with cyber crime have much to cheer following recent amendments to the IT Act. The amendments passed by Parliament require internet behemoths like Google, Rediff and Microsoft — which provide free email services — to set up Indian servers. Not just that, they may also have to provide Indian email accounts for Indian nationals. This will have far-reaching ramifications for the millions of users of Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoomail in India.

Internet users will have email accounts ending with ‘.in’ instead of ‘.com’. While some like Yahoo already provide email services with this suffix, many others offer the global suffix ‘.com’.

The change is going to make a huge difference for the investigating agencies dealing with cyber crime, including data theft. Local mail IDs are a big problem across the globe, wherein the investigating agencies struggle to get personal details of account holders due to jurisdictional issues. As the servers of these accounts are generally overseas, mostly in the US, every country has to go through the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty and send letters rogatory (LRs) to get the details. The process of sending LRs takes more than six months.

“For a long time, we have been asking for this, and I think there will be an automatic change once the gazette notification for IT Act amendment comes into effect. Parliament has passed the Bill, and internet domains will be bound by Indian law if they have to carry out their business here,’’ says IGP, CoD, H C Kishore Chandra.

In India, the issue assumed critical proportion after the Mumbai terror attacks, where the terrorists used BlackBerry mobiles. As the parent company initially refused to part with information critical to the investigation, there was even talk of banning BlackBerry.

“It’s a question of availability of information when we need it. When the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team director was here for discussion, we said this can’t go on forever. Most of the time, we had to plead helplessness as we could not get information in time,’’ DIG, CoD, Malini Krishnamurthy says.

The question is, will global email providers agree to the idea of hosting servers in India to service their Indian client base?

“We don’t know how they are going to do it, but the government has decided to do it. Every domain company has their branch office here, and they are bound to pass on the information immediately, whenever investigation agency needs it,’’ Krishnamurthy says.

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One comment

  1. Indian Government thinks that e-surveillance is a substitute for cyber forensics and cyber security capabilities. The Government of India (GOI) must act upon the suggestions and recommendations regarding e-surveillance in India as soon as possible.

    The leading techno-legal expert/specialist of India Mr. Praveen Dalal, Managing Partner of Perry4Law says, “Issues of cross-border surveillance would also assumes significance in future as almost all the Nations of the World are engaged in some sort of surveillance of the Internet traffic entering into and leaving their territorial boundaries. If surveillance equipments have been installed at the National Gateway, all incoming material and contents can be analysed by the State. As far as e-mails are concerned, the States have an additional advantage if the server of the e-mail hosting company is located in their own jurisdiction. In that case they can retrieve almost any or all mails they wish to from the ISP/NSP after obtaining a court warrant”.

    The draconian powers that have been provided by the Bill, 2008 can be major source of misuse by law enforcement and GOI in future. Fortunately, it seems that the Bill, 2008 has been “withdrawn” as there are no sign of its notification.

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