Enjoying phone tapping while it lasts. 

Wire tapping was the title used in earlier days for eavesdropping on phone calls. Phones became wireless and far more complicated and now phone tapping is insufficient to define the complete spectrum of surveillance we undergo.

Last time my phone was tapped was in 2011 by ATS or Anti Terrorist Squad at Mumbai. I was merely representing a client who was arrested to identify a terrorist. My client was merely a pizza delivery boy. Well something like illegal pizza.

This time it is a revenue intelligence department chasing my client. They have no direct evidence to implicate and phone tapping was a desperate attempt. I wonder if it still continues

Problem lies in absence of proper law. Supreme Court of India permitted this intrusion on privacy subject to some guidelines but in the absence of a complete law aimed at preventing illegal tapping, it is a free for all.

Position is same in other countries as well. Courts do not realise that phone tapping is a normal first step in intelligence gathering and is so wide spread. Or perhaps they do know and give tacit approval.

Problem also lies in the command structure and they way order of tapping is transmitted. There is no format and no unified authority. Technically order of phone tapping is passed by Cabinet Secretary and this order is conveyed like any other order from top of pyramid to next officer and so on. Thus if the immidiate superior of the person actually tapping the phone, orders to tap a phone, this person is bound to follow. S/he has no way of confirming it with cabinet secretary or to report back to him. Thus the decision maker and the implementor are completely separated by over a dozen or more layers of Beurocracy.

Second problem is absence of record of wire tapping. The person actually doing the tapping has no obligation to report to the decision maker. There is a direction to maintain record of tapping and is maintained by the office of cabinet secretory. The recording made by subordinates on the side lines remain off the record. Of course except for tactical advantage the eve dropping has no purpose as evidence.

It is for this reason the iPhone encrypt the phone and now What’s App is using end to end encryption. SMS are like public broadcast and are monitored all the time.

Want to try? Send a SMS which says that you are going to a particular place with a bomb. Risk is yours. I told you that you are under monitoring always. Big brother is actually watching all the times.

All in National Interest.

Rumour has it that EU is reconsidering the tough privacy stand it was taking against phone tapping, in view of terrorist threats.

I am not a big fan of privacy and individualism. But hearing a privileged conversation of a lawyer and a client is violation of two laws at one stroke and gives undue advantage to Governemnt which is too powerful for an indvidual to challenge.

But I am not sure about one thing. Some movies show that it is possible to turn on microphone of a phone remotely and use it as a bug to record conversation around it. Is that technically possible?

Do share if you know.

About Sandeep Bhalla

A lawyer, thinker, author, Linux/Ubuntu power user and sometime an economist or gardener or philosopher or cook or photographer depending upon the current thought and environment. View all posts by Sandeep Bhalla

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