In which the Indian Cops trace your IP

In some supremely air-conditioned room, cops will sit on their computers, logging into Orkut. They will then meticulously wade through all the offers of “fraandship”, “oye, sexy pic you got” and what not to track down the very bored people who form hate groups. Not just if you hate India. If you hate Ambedkar, Shivaji, Gandhi – and are part of some such hapless Orkut group – Google is apparently going to provide them information on your IP. Since it never really is clear what can be hated under the Constitution, it’s likely that if you hate peacocks, nine yard sarees, Doordarshan, Dhoni’s hairstyle, you could still be committing a serious crime.

A single e-mail between the DCP in charge of the Enforcement Branch and the California-based company will now nail such persons.

Following a meeting between representatives of the site and the Enforcement Directorate last month, the Mumbai Police and Orkut have entered into an agreement to seal such cooperation in matters of objectionable material on the web.

Trouble is, that many proxies don’t solve the problem. You cannot access gmail or orkut on many of these services. There are a few like AvoidLimit that may allow access, but the waiting time is likely to fizzle out your hatered.

There are issues that Orkut has. People get stalked. But frankly, please don’t be foolish enough to go about publishing your phone number on a public profile. You’re not asking for it, but a large number of human beings are bored and perverts. As for people creating fake profiles in other people’s names – the internet has a memory for both the fake profile, and the denial. If you ignore it long enough, people will find something else to do. I understand that cyber crimes can be very serious. But we still don’t have a concrete definition of what constitutes a cyber crime. And who exactly is to tell us what “objectionable content” is? If it’s wrong to hate Shivaji, I demand that anyone hating Kannagi be labeled a criminal too. In fact, I demand that anyone hating anything remotely Tamil be tracked down and sent a year’s supply of bad Tamil movies as punishment.

This is the first step. You may not hate anything that the government wants you to love. But tomorrow, it’ll be for some other reason. Maybe they’ll begin by saying that since sodomy is illegal, any homosexual man posting on Orkut will be tracked down. Then, they’ll tell you they’re at your doorstep because you dared to say that Pasta is better than Dal. (Actually, given our current Italian flavour in the government – that might take an election.).

Update – Google has a response. Maybe they should change their tag line to “Don’t do Evil. Just be Ambiguous.”.

Google has very high standards for user privacy and a clear privacy policy. When dealing with requests from authorities, we are very careful to balance the interests of our users while still being as cooperative in the investigation and prosecution of crimes as possible.
What is important to note is that this new reporting tool does not affect the way we treat users’ data – it only enables a faster, direct communication. Authorities will still be required to follow an appropriate legal process in order to get user-identifying information.

What exactly is “legal process” in this case? A bad case of police indigestion?

18 Comments

Filed under Governance, India, Marketplace and All Things Current, Rights, Social Software, Technology and Internet

18 Responses to In which the Indian Cops trace your IP

  1. km

    I am very tempted to say “Google is evil” but that would be gross oversimplification.

    Oh, what the hell. Google *is* evil.

  2. And then will come the mandatory ‘chai paani’ fees you can pay through Pay Pal… LOL.

    Sad, really sad.

  3. I hate everything Tamil (hint)

  4. Vi

    Somehow, this fails to surprise me.

  5. I hope the cops don’t mess around with Orkut too much. That is the only place in the world where I feel like a diva.
    However, I have also very quickly unsubscribed from many hate communities including – I hate Engineers from my Colony and I hate boys with moustache. Phew!

  6. If this is true (Google has some wishy-washy verbiage that says nothing), then Google is horribly evil – horribly because they profess so loudly that they will not do evil. Give me a break.

  7. I am not sure if this is about Google being evil. Google has a business to do. They are a listed company. They are evil if they break the Terms of Service (even if the service is offered free). But my concern is more towards the intolerant cops in India.

    The real evil – is really not in California.

  8. rossoneri

    i say down with da man!

  9. When will people learn that *bans* of any kind don’t work on the internet. They simply don’t.

  10. Here’s an update, picked up from 27bstroke6 – A Google statement saying they need much more than an email to coopoerate…:

    “When dealing with requests from authorities, we are very careful to balance the interests of our users while still being as cooperative in the investigation and prosecution of crimes as possible. Authorities, including those in India, are required to provide appropriate legal process in order to get user-identifying information. Google has very high standards for user privacy and a clear privacy policy.”

  11. Censorship is indeed a tricky issue. In a way it is simple: my freedom ends where yours begins. But the tough part is: where does my freedom end and your begin.

    The problem that Google, Orkut etc face today can be partly attributed to the fact that they are nascent media of mass communication. Many on them are there only our of curiosity. And, Neha, you are right when you say, some problems just get resolved with time — the mischief monger will get bored when no one is heeding to him.

  12. I nominate Pradeep for the non-brahmin of the year award.

  13. km

    LOL@farrukh’s idea.

  14. OK.. 2 issues here :

    * yap, has become trendy among government everywhere to keep eye on internet. to be honest, Iam not very sure how to react to this.. since ‘Terrorism Uses the Internet'(http://www.usip.org/pubs/specialreports/sr116.html) does use internet most effectively. and having side.. some many policy issues specially after 9/11(http://www.cyber-rights.org/911.htm)

    * anyways, google does store your data on search/mail/all google services upto 10yrs and they can use it any which way for their needs (check T&C and ‘Looking inside Google — http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-1508211417393454786)
    since, google,largest (almost monopoly) company can profit/access it.. why not government anyways.!!?

    hope/trust this is used for rightful needs..

  15. Pingback: Do No Evil* (Conditions Apply) at Psychotic Ramblings Of A Mad Man…

  16. Pingback: MYPAJAMA.COM » Orkut and police

  17. Saravanan

    I dont think Google has a choice here. Google is a business entity. They have to obey the rules of the nation where they operate. So they are expected to provide information to law enforcement people whenever appropriate requests are made. Based on Google’s response, I think the new application is only for sending requests. It does not mean that cops can log into orkut and see ips of all the users. There are some cases where Google might not be able to provide information to Indian govt like details about an user registered orkut.com from USA. If they provide then that will be privacy nightmare for Google. Lot of grey area here. So dont jump into conclusions just by tidbits provided by a media hungry cop.

  18. Anonymous

    Web based proxies may not work, but you can configure a proxy in your browser’s connection settings (ideally you should have one right at the router level for ALL traffic).

    Lesson: Don’t take anonymity & privacy for granted.

    Oh and to the owner of the blog your header reminds me of a calvin klein commercial…

    And by the way I’m posting this comment from my “real” IP.

    Chant with me… death to nationalism…death to religion, death to nationalism…death to religion, death to…

    Ha.

    /rant