Cyber Crime Volunteers Program

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    In News

    The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) stated that it does not maintain a centralised list of volunteers enrolled under the cybercrime volunteer programme.

    About

    • The Union Ministry of Home Affairs has clarified that police being a “State subject” under the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution, does not authorise to maintain a centralised list of cybercrime.
    • The cybercrime grievance portal of MHA aims to raise a group of “cybercrime volunteers” to flag “unlawful content” on the Internet.
    • The ‘police’ and ‘public order’ are State subjects and States are primarily responsible for the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of crimes through their law enforcement agencies (LEAs).

    Cyber Crime Volunteers Program

    • Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre (I4C) has envisaged the Cyber Crime Volunteers Program to bring together citizens with a passion to serve the nation on a single platform and contribute to the fight against cybercrime in the country.
    • The volunteers are registered, and their services utilised, by the respective State/UT LEAs as per their requirement. 
    • They will assist State/UT LEAs for cyber hygiene promotion, as technical experts, and for reporting of content that is unlawful as per provisions of law. 
    • The Cybercrime Volunteers are advised to study Article 19 of the Indian Constitution.
    • The content reported shall be verified and validated by the State/UT Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) for taking appropriate action as per the existing provisions of law. There is no discretion in the hands of a cyber volunteer.

    What is unlawful content?

    • The “unlawful content” sought to be identified through the assistance of the volunteer programme is labelled in broad categories, including any content against sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of the State, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, communal harmony and child sex abuse. 

    Concerns

    • The Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF), a digital liberties organisation, has written to the MHA that the scheme will lead to a “culture of surveillance and constant suspicion in society creating potential social distrust”.
    • The IFF said the programme will essentially result in a similar situation to the one in which East Germany was in the 1950s. 
      • Asking citizens to report their fellow citizens would lead to cyber-vigilantism, as stated above, and would lead to peers turning against their peers to snitch on them.
    • The MHA has failed to clearly define unlawful content and content which would relate to “anti-national” activities, this could allow the volunteers to exercise far more discretion than is necessary and report on citizens who are well within their rights to post content that is critical of the State.

    Way Forward 

    • Social media platforms have become an effective forum for mobilisation, dissemination of views sometimes critical of the political parties in power, therefore an important platform for asserting individual autonomy and freedom of speech and expression enabled by access to the internet is required.
    • The Volunteer Programme needs to be evaluated in the larger socio-political context of the day. 

    Safeguards in India 

    • Information Technology Act, 2000 (Amended in 2008): It is the main law for dealing with cybercrime and digital commerce in India.
    • National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre (NCIIPC) was created under Section 70A of IT Act 2000 to protect Cyberinfrastructure.
    • CERT-In (Cyber Emergency Response Team, India): It is National Nodal Agency for Cyber Security and is Operational since 2004
    • National Cyber Security Policy, 2013: The policy provides the vision and strategic direction to protect the national cyberspace.
    • Cyber Swachhta Kendra: Cyber Swachhta Kendra helps users to analyse and keep their systems free of various viruses, bots/ malware, Trojans, etc.
    • Cyber Surakshit Bharat: It was launched by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITy) in 2018 with the aim to spread awareness about cybercrime and building capacity for safety measures for Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) and frontline IT staff across all government departments.
    • The Cyber Warrior Police Force: It was organised on the lines of the Central Armed Police Force in 2018.
    • Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre (I4C) :It has been established under the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to act as a nodal point at the National level in the fight against cybercrime. 
      • It aims to provide a platform to deal with cybercrimes in a coordinated and comprehensive manner. One of the important objectives of I4C is to create an ecosystem that brings together academia, industry, public and government in the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of cybercrimes.

    Source :TH