India to turn on PRISM-like Netra

Douglas Crawford

Douglas Crawford

January 29, 2014

india netraWhile much of the rest of the world freaks out over news of blanket surveillance by the NSA and GHCQ, and demands an ‘open discussion’ about the role of such ubiquitous big brother spying programs in the modern world, India is almost ready to implement its own version of PRISM, dubbed Netra.

Able to scan chats, blogs, forums, status updates, and tweets for certain keywords such as ‘bomb,’ ‘attack’ and ‘kill’, the new system will also be able to detect when these word are used in Skype and Google Talk conversations according to The Times of India.

‘When Netra is operationalized, security agencies will get a big handle on monitoring activities of dubious people and organisations which use internet to carry out their nefarious designs,’ a government official said.

Although the scope of the system matches the NSA’s infamous PRISM mass spying program, the scale of it is somewhat more modest. 1000 nodes will be established across the country, with up to three security agencies (including the Intelligence Bureau and Cabinet Secretariat) being allocated 300GB of space between them for the collection of intercepted internet traffic on each node, with an additional 100GB being assigned to law enforcement agencies. This results in a total national storage of 400,000 GB.

Although nowhere near as much as that stored by the NSA, especially considering that India, with a population of over 1.21 billion people (2011 census), is the second largest country in the world, it still represents a substantial collection of data.

Fear of further terrorist attacks following the tragic events in Mumbai in 2008 is almost certainly a motivation behind the new system.

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