Modi government has sought call data records of all mobile users across several areas in India for specific days over the past few months.
According to a report in The Indian Express, This unique request has been sent to telecom operators through local units of department of telecommunications. Details of several users in Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Kerala, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Punjab has been asked for.
“It has been happening for several months now but during January and February, we started seeing these mass requests,” said a senior executive of a service provider on the condition of annonymity.
On February 12, Cellular Operators Association of India red-flagged these requests in a complaint to Anshu Prakash, Secretary, Department of Telecommunications. COAI represents all major telecom operators,
According to the report in Indian Express, COAI said to Prakash in it complaint, “CDRs sought for specific routes/areas may lead to allegations of surveillance, especially in a state like Delhi having numerous VVIP zones having offices and residences of ministers, MPs, Judges, etc.”
Rules for procuring call records were made stringent in 2013. Under new rules, only officer of the rank of SP and above are authorised to obtain details from telecom operators. They need to inform the DM about CDRs obtained every month.
The request by DoT is not in line with these rules.
According to the report in Indian Express, In the Delhi circle, with nearly 53 million subscribers, CDRs of consumers were sought by the DoT for February 2, 3 and 4 of the year 2019. Protests against the Citizenship Act were on at the time. Campaigning for Delhi elections ended on February 6 and polls were held on Feburary 8.
COAI in its complaint has stated that in their requests, DoT units have mentioned neither the intended purpose for requisitioning these CDRs nor the identity of the subscribers which is a violation of privacy norms.
The report quotes a former chairperson of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) as saying, “This is most unusual. Once they have a database, they can query specific numbers to ascertain who spoke to whom. There must be a reason (given for asking CDR details), without which it is an arbitrary action and a violation of the right to privacy.”
“They are not just asking for one particular person’s data. They are saying give us everybody’s data on this day in this region. That is clearly violative of the standard operating procedure. They need a probable cause to tap into someone’s data,” a senior telecom industry executive said.