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Central Monitoring System not being used to obtain call records ‘at present’: Govt in Parliament

The Central Monitoring System is not being used to access people’s call detail records (CDRs) “at present”, State IT Minister Sanjay Dhotre informed Parliament. However, he did not clarify whether the government had any legal process in place to obtain people’s call detail records, using the surveillance system. Dhotre was responding to questions raised by BJP’s Maneka Gandhi, and Congress’ Pradyut Bordoloi, which asked whether the government had set any legal procedure for obtaining CDRs using the CMS.

Another question posed to him asked whether the government had set any minimum designation level in the police or other central law enforcement agencies who were authorised to ask for CDRs using the CMS. In response, Dhotre again did not clarify whether any such minimum designation level was set. He said: “Central Monitoring System (CMS) is used by designated Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) including Police for lawful interception and monitoring”.

He then added:

“As per Rule 419(A) of Indian Telegraph (1st Amendment of 2014) Rules, 2014 the directions of interception shall specify the name and designation of the officer to whom the intercepted information is to be disclosed. Further, Ministry of Home Affairs has authorized the heads of ten Central Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) for lawful interception and monitoring under the provisions of section 5(2) of the Indian Telegraph Act,1885 read with rule 419A of Indian Telegraph (1st Amendment of 2014) Rules, 2014 and section 69 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 read with the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Interception, Monitoring and Decryption of Information) Rules, 2009.”

Dhotre also informed Parliament that the CMS has been operationalised across the country. He also informed that the operation and management of the CMS was being done by the Department of Telecommunications and C-DOT.

What is the CMS? The Centralised Monitoring System was set up in 2019 to monitor communications on mobile phones, landlines and internet in the country, in order to “strengthen the security environment in the country”.With the CMS, the government plans to create a platform that will include all service providers to aid law enforcement agencies in interception and monitoring of communications.

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On paper, it will be able to equip government agencies with Direct Electronic Provisioning, Call Data Records (CDR) analysis and data mining to identify the personal information, and in turn it will provide alerts of the target numbers, without any manual intervention from telecom service providers.

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