Make no mistake, big brother is watching you and his name is Uncle Sam. It is not just an avuncular interest that the United States government takes as it sifts through your email or looks at the information provided so gratuitously on Facebook. Now, with details becoming clearer because of documents leaked to the Washington Post and the Guardian, this huge, secret US Internet spying programme, codenamed PRISM, ostensibly to fight terrorism, spares none from the electronically wired world, none on the Internet or using international telecommunications. It does not help that you are in India and an Indian. In the old days, when only snail mail and the local telephone ruled the roost, there was only your own government to snoop on you and legal safeguards could prevent it from doing so. Now, the communications revolution and the Internet have ensured that all information is right out there, in the no man’s land of cyberspace, the electronic signals the easy captive of anybody with the technological capability to pry. This just happens to be the US government, with sufficient technologically prowess and paranoia to spy. Even as the US keeps its own citizen’s constantly under the electronic spy-glass, it has reassured them that the special focus of its surveillance is on foreigners.
India is the beneficiary of some extreme vigilance by the US government, for our country is no less than the fifth most tracked nation in the world. Why this should be so is worth pondering about, and this fascination with the chatter of Indians sufficiently empowered to use the Internet is not trivial or innocent but can have many purposes. Indians, quick to adapt to the Internet, and, always reputed to be a chattering kind, have carelessly placed an enormous amount of information on it and outside their control, with many even in government, who should know better, doing so. It is not just a question of the violation of privacy laws, which is important, and for which there is no redressal with a foreign government. It is also a question of national security. The Indian government has already voiced its concern, noting that mechanisms exist for the legitimate exchange of information, if needed. It must now not only join others nations as they protest this gross transgression of privacy laws but also, with no US intention to end the programme, take steps to safeguard information.