Defender of your Digital Freedom

All Posts | Dec 03,2015

How Have Internet Shutdowns Impacted Your Life? – The Huffington Post

With the advent of the internet, the global communications landscape has undergone a number of dramatic changes. Not only has the internet made communications technology more universal and affordable, it has also provided a whole new platform for self-expression bundled with elements of decentralisation and anonymity, making it one of the most powerful tools for political discourse in the 21st century. This also means that the internet has been increasingly targeted for control, and complete regional shutdowns of the public internet are frequently resorted to in parts of the world.

Between 2013 and 2015, access to the public internet has been blocked nine times across four Indian states. Annual instances of shutdowns climbed from one in 2013 to two in 2014 and six in 2015. Jammu & Kashmir saw the highest number of shutdowns with four instances over 2013, 2014 and 2015, followed by Gujarat with three internet clampdowns over 2014 and 2015. Nagaland and Manipur had internet shutdowns enforced once each in 2015.

While most shutdowns were instituted in the interest of maintaining law and order under the threat of widespread violence, the process followed remains shrouded in uncertainty. Despite there being a detailed procedure laid down by India's Information Technology Act to block public access to online content under specified circumstances, this is often discarded in favour of blanket shutdowns, which may be easier to implement in the short term, but come with collateral damage in terms of non-access to essential services that depend on the internet for their functioning. In 2011, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) estimated that a complete five-day internet shutdown in Egypt resulted in direct costs of at least USD 90 million. A 2015 study by the Germany-based Centre of Internet and Human Rights on "The Impact of Mobile Network Shutdowns in Pakistan" stresses how "Network shutdowns are a fundamental risk, not just to freedom of expression, national or personal security or business operations, but also to the most fundamental of sustainable development challenges faced by all state.

We invite readers to narrate their stories of how the shutdowns impact their day to day lives and business. A record of such shutdowns can be found at the website of the Software Freedom Law Centre.

This article first appeared on The Huffington Post (India Edition) on 2nd November 2015.

Photo byStahlkocher / CC BY-SA 3.0 EDIT: And updated version of the Infographic is available here. [19/02/2016]

All Posts | Mar 28,2012

Dear Government, Please Go Back to the Drawing Board

Shri. P.Rajeeve, MP representing Kerala in the Rajya Sabha has moved a statutory motion to get the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines) 2011 annulled.This motion has been admittedand will be coming up before the Rajya Sabha soon. We thank Shri.P.Rajeev who took a keen interest in this issue by participating in discussionsinsideandoutsidethe parliament, spent time in understanding SFLC.in's submissions given to him explaining the need for moving an annulment and filed this motion.

The motion is reproduced below:


The following Motion given notice of by Shri P.Rajeeve, M.P. has been admitted in the following form:

"That this House resolves that the Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules, 2011 issued under clause (zg) of sub-section (2) of Section 87 read with sub-section (2) of Section 79 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 published in the Gazette of India dated the 13th April, 2011 vide Notification No. G.S.R 314(E) and laid on the Table of the House on the 12th August, 2011, be annuled; and

That this House recommends to Lok Sabha that Lok Sabha do concur on this Motion."

Why Annulment?

The Intermediary rules have resulted in a mechanism whereby intermediaries like Google and Facebook receive protection from legal liability in return for trading away the freedom of expression and privacy of users. The rules require the intermediaries to initiate action for taking down the content within 36 hours of receiving a complaint. The rules also require the intermediaries to provide the Government agencies information of users without any safeguards.


The rules in the current form are ultra-vires of the parent Act and are also violative of the Constitution of India. The rules violate the right to freedom of speech and expression and the right to privacy of citizens guaranteed by the Constitution of India. The rules are also ambiguous and arbitrary. The rules are disjointed, legislate on disparate areas and are beyond the rule-making power of the Government. The piecemeal drafting of various important issues clubbed together under one heading make it impossible to amend the rules and come with anything which clear, workable and operational either for the public or the Industry. Thus, leaving annulment as our only option. The Government needs to introduce new rules which are in line with the parent act, the Constitution as well as other legislations. This can be achieved by holding a true multi-stakeholder discussion. The Government while coming out with new rules should restrict themselves to prescribing guidelines for the intermediaries in relation to their duties as laid down by the parent act

The following documents explain the issue in detail:

FAQ on IT Intermediary Rules eBook - "Intermediaries, users and the law - Analysing intermediary liability and the IT Rules "

We appeal to everyone to petition their parliamentarians to support the motion.

Links to media stories on the rules:

Concern over impact of Internet control rules on free speech

India Puts Tight Leash on Internet Free Speech

Indian web rules risk curbing info flow-Google India Asks Google, Facebook to Screen User Content Indian Govt. Readies Battle Against "Offensive" Content on Web Google, Facebook fight offensive content lawsuit New rules reinforce Internet control and surveillance That’s the unkindest cut, Mr Sibal

All Posts | Jul 08,2011

Unravelling NATGRID

National Intelligence Grid(NATGRID), established under Ministry of Home Affairs of the Government of India, aims to consolidate data gathered by various agencies, both private and public, and to make the same available to law enforcement agencies of India. NATGRID functions with a budget of Rs. 2,800 crores and a staff of 300. It has been conceived by the Ministry of Home Affairs in order to'improve'national security. The CTAG project of SFLC aims to ensure that Government agencies function in a transparent way, especially where civil liberties of citizens are concerned and there was a genuine concern regarding how NATGRID could affect the civil liberties of the citizens. The concern regarding NATGRID is with respect to the safeguards adopted to protect the privacy of citizens and ensuring that arbitrary surveillance does not happen.

Once the NATGRID is fully functional, security agencies of the Government will merely have to feed the name of a person and information will be available at the click of the button. It is Government's surveillance of the citizens of this country at its best. The Supreme Court in the People's Union For Civil Liberties V/s State of India [ 1999(9) SCALE ] has ruled against arbitrary surveillance.

Concerned with the Cabinet Committee on Security's approval for the NATGRID , a number of Right to Information( RTI) applications were filed by SFLC under the CTAG project.

The first RTI application was filed on the 11thMay 2011 asking for the following information and the reply to the application, dated 9.6.2011, is as follows:


S. No Information Sought Response

What is the legal framework under which the NATGRID is functioning. Is NATGRID duly constituted as an 'Authority' under the Government of India, if so, under which provision of law has NATGRID been constituted. Please provide a copy of the same.

NATGRID is established as an attached office of the Ministry of Home Affairs as per the decision of the Cabinet Committee on Security.

Has the approval of the Cabinet Committee on Security been granted? If yes , Kindly provide a copy of the same.

Yes, NATGRID has been constituted with the approval of Cabinet Committee on Security. Minutes of the Cabinet meeting being a secret document, it cannot be provided.

What is the designation of the Officer In charge of the NATGRID Project and who does the said Officer In charge report to?

The Chief Executive Officer In-charge of the Project.

What is the budgetary allocations for the NATGRID project.

An amount of Rs. 13 crore was utilized during the financial year 2010-2011.

What government and private databases will be linked to the NATGRID. If so under what order or rules. Please provide a copy of the same.

Security agencies can seek the details from NATGRID database. Data from Airline companies, Telecom Companies, etc. would be uploaded to NATGRID database.

What are the measures in place to prevent the misuse of NATGRID? If yes, please provide a photocopy of these guidelines/circulars

All possible measures are being taken to prevent misuse of NATGRID . For security reasons we are unable to provide the details/ orders.

What are the various Governmental agencies that will have an access to NATGRID?

All the Security agencies will have an access to NATGRID

Does this project have any policy favouring Free and Open Source Software(FOSS)?

' NO'

Concerned about the replies provided, SFLC, in view of its social objective of ensuring digital freedom and privacy of citizens, filed a second RTI application , dated 11.06.2011. Wherein the information sought was as follows:


  1. The name and qualification of CEO of NATGRID.

  2. The process for appointment of CEO.

  3. The details that is names and headquarters of the companies and Government entities from which the data would be uploaded in the NATGRID.

  4. The names of the various Government agencies which would have an access with NATGRID database.
  5. Whether NATGRID would be run of FOSS.

In response to this, the reply was received on 30.06.2011 stating that "NATGRID/MHA is out of purview of RTI Act, 2005 under Gazette Notification No. 306 dated 9.6.2011".

The underlying concern with the NATGRID is its privacy issues. Added with that is the threat of the Information leakage from the porous offices and systems of the Government.. This threat becomes even more serious in the case of the NATGRID being operated on proprietary software.

SFLC has filed another application dated 7.7.2011 asking for the following information:

  1. Kindly provide a copy of the Notification No. 306 dated 9.6.2011 by which NATGRID /MHA is out of purview of RTI Act, 2005.
  2. Under Section 24 (3) of the RTI Act, 2005, the said Notification should be laid before each House of Parliament. Hence information on when this Notification No. 306 dated 9.6.20011 is being laid before each House of Parliament.