After Supreme Court's 'surveillance state' remark, Centre says it is not setting up social media hub

WION Web Team
New Delhi, Delhi, India Published: Aug 03, 2018, 03:52 PM(IST)

File photo. Photograph:( Reuters )

The Centre told the Supreme Court on Friday that it was dropping its plan to set up a social media hub, which critics had alleged could be used to snoop on people's social media accounts. 

The Centre added that it would be completely reviewing its social media policy. 

A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra considered the submission of Attorney General K K Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, that the government's social media notification was being withdrawn, and disposed of petitions challenging it.

The bench was hearing a PIL filed by Trinamool Congress MLA Mahua Moitra alleging that the Centre's social media hub policy was to be used as a tool to monitor social media activities of the citizens and should be quashed. 

The Trinamool Congress legislator from West Bengal had asked whether the government wants to tap citizens' messages on WhatsApp or other social media platforms.

Moitra had said the government had issued a Request For Proposal (RFP). She had said the tender would be opened on August 20 for a software which would carry out 360-degree monitoring on all social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Twitter and Instagram and track e-mail contents.

In May this year, the Broadcast Engineering Consultants India Limited (BECIL), a public sector undertaking under the ministry, had floated a tender to supply software for the project.

On July 13, the apex court had asked the government whether its move to create such a hub was to tap people's WhatsApp messages, and observed that it will be like creating a "surveillance state". 

Moitra's petition quoted the RFP as saying that the platform should "support easy management of conversational logs with each individual with capabilities to merge it across channels to help facilitate creating a 360 degree view of the people who are creating buzz across various topics".

The petition said the technology being requested is required to have the capability to listen to and collect data not only from social media platforms but also from e-mails.

"Specific capabilities mentioned include live search, monitoring, collecting, indexing and storage of personal data including location-based data and meta-data. The ability to monitor individual social media user/account is a specific mandate being given to the service provider," the PIL said. 

(With inputs from PTI)

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