By 2013, the Indian government has plans to track a majority of mobile phone users in India via GPS co-ordinates, according to a report by Express India. Starting May 31, 2012, mobile operators and service providers will have to provide location details (latitudes and longitudes) of handpicked phone numbers to the telecom department while within three years, service providers will have to provide location information of all customers. It turns out Telecom folks are pretty busy these days, trying hard to impose Internet censorship in India, not to forget that they have already achieved marginal edge over Internet companies like Google, Facebook and others.
We have sketchy details regarding how real time mobile phone surveillance is going to work, given the fact that Indian suburbs and cities are crawling with thousands of numbers every hundred meters. The report specifies that by the end of 2013, the Government will successfully track up to 60% of all calls in urban areas, when made 100 meters away from a closest cell phone tower. By 2014, this proportion may increase to 75 percent in cities and 50 per cent in suburbs and rural areas.
After 26/11, the Indian government started taking mobile communication surveillance very seriously and built a centralized monitoring system from scratch, which allows special units to track a mobile or a landline number within minutes. The CMS, now fully operational, keeps a central and regional database of suspicious numbers which helps police and law enforcements in intercepting and monitoring suspicious calls. The modern CMS is equipped with a number of real time features e.g the ability to set up automatic alerts on specific target numbers, thereby allowing cops to quickly zero in to a target, no matter where they are. Manual intervention from service providers and mobile operators is no longer a mandatory need, as far as tracking the location of the user is concerned.
Now that the government has plans to track and store the location information of all users within the country borders, there is bound to be a huge margin of error. Stolen phones, registering numbers in bulk and aberrations from law is not a very big deal in India. “In the existing system, secrecy can be easily compromised due to manual intervention while in CMS these functions will be performed on secured electronic links,” Sachin Pilot, MoS, Communications and IT, told Parliament recently.
Taking a cue from FED, this move makes sense. But as of now, we will have to wait and watch how the curtain is lifted.