Coming from Sri Lanka, a country that endured a thirty-year war, this is nothing new. But it appears that the same issues keep coming up, and we keep making the same mistakes. Pakistan shut down mobile phones for elections. There were serious discussions in Sri Lanka about disabling mobiles within a certain distance from army camps, which meant that pretty much all of Colombo would have been a dead zone for mobiles.
Now India wants the ability to listen into every conversation/text/email exchange on every Blackberry in their territory. If only the security people are listening. But we all know that all sorts of other people will get access to this information too. Field day for the other kinds of spooks.
The best defense against terrorists is wealth. If more people have it, there’d be fewer people willing to become terrorists in the long term. If there is more wealth, governments will also have more resources and can afford to replace things like the WWII rifles used by Indian law enforcement in 26/11.
Few doubt that India has valid security concerns. In recent years, attacks against India have included the use of sophisticated communications technology — as when the terrorists who stormed Mumbai two years ago communicated with their Pakistani handlers by satellite phone and the Internet. Or when Chinese hackers infiltrated India’s military computer networks this year.
But critics say that India’s security efforts, which they describe as clumsy, may do little to protect the country, even as they intrude on the privacy of companies and citizens alike.
“They will do damage by blocking highly visible systems like BlackBerry or Skype,” said Ajay Shah, a Mumbai-based economist who writes extensively about technology. “This will shift users to less visible and known platforms. Terrorists will make merry doing crypto anyway. A zillion tools for this are freely available.”