India will ask the US government for help in spying on its citizens

Students on the internet in Bangalore.
Students on the internet in Bangalore.
Image: Reuters
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When you need help with a difficult problem, it’s always wise to turn to an expert. Maybe that’s why India’s home ministry is planning to ask the United States for assistance in decrypting communications over Skype, BlackBerry, WeChat, and other services.

The request is on the agenda for the US-Indo police chiefs conference, which starts today (Dec. 4) in Delhi, the Economic Times reports, citing an “agenda note” from the ministry. It reads:

The communication over these services is encrypted and the encryption-decryption technologies available with the service providers will be required by security agencies even if the facility for lawful interception of these communications is extended to security agencies in India. The technology in use by US agencies may be an area of co-operation.

While governments in many countries, including India, have reacted with anger to this year’s revelations from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden that the US spied on foreign officials, several have also been increasing internet surveillance at home. India has started using a system that allows security agencies and income tax officials to directly intercept phone calls and e-mails without any court or legislative oversight, Reuters reported this summer.

Blackberry’s encrypted messages, though, have thwarted Indian security officials for years. Authorities threatened to shut down Research in Motion’s services in India, before announcing last year they thought they may have found a way to read BlackBerry messages, a claim that many found hard to believe. The NSA and cracked BlackBerry’s encryption as early as 2009, documents leaked by Snowden show. As the “agenda note” indicates, Indian officials may still need a little help.