Indian Government Monitoring Calls As Coronavirus Cases Escalate: Report

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The Government of India has directed telecom operators to use call data of subscribers to closely track the movement of Covid-19 positive patients. As per a report by ET Telecom, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), and mobile phone operators are working in tandem with state governments to keep an eye on the coronavirus infected people in the country.

Indian Government Monitoring Calls As COVID-19 Cases Escalate: Report

 

This doesn't come as a surprise to us as the news of Government of India monitoring all forms of online and telephonic communications during the lockdown was already in the air since the last few weeks.

While the news of snooping of online platforms such as WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook are not new, the call monitoring by your telecom operator on government's directive raises big concerns on individual's privacy, even though it is being done to track down the information of COVID-19 affected people. Moreover, the fact that telcos will be monitoring the calls without taking any prior permission from the subscriber base forces us to think about the data protection laws in the country.

However, the report mentions that officials have clarified that only location details of calls were being used for the purpose, and not the detailed call data records (CDRs). In that case, the telcos will only be monitoring the location of the subscribers and not the complete call records. For instance, the telcos can monitor the location of a Covid-19 affected subscriber. If he/she moves from his/her respective quarantine location, an alert will be sent to the agencies and the concerned police department.

Moreover, the report further mentions that the DoT is also tracking the cell sites of the patients and places they have visited for 15 days before being tested positive. The process will help the agencies to check up on those who have come in contact with the patient.

 

While we understand that desperate times call for desperate measures, the breach of privacy is a genuine concern for everyone who uses phone calls as a communication medium. Adding to the fact that telcos are not communicating this to a subscriber base, the government will never release a directive, and there are no official data protection laws in the country, the personal freedom is at stake.

If the news of phone calls monitoring makes you worried about your privacy, you can use WhatsApp calls as the messaging platform is end-to-end encrypted. However, WhatsApp also has some privacy issues that you must take into account before fully relying on the app.

As for the novel coronavirus, India's total count of Covid-19 cases has reached 27,892. According to worldometer data, the death toll currently stands at 882. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to address the nation for the fourth time by the end of this week to announce a lockdown exit plan.

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