Friday, February 25, 2011

Can Google Defeat Content Farms And Splogs?

Google has finally done something that justifies its reputation and capabilities. It has come heavily upon content farming sites and splogs. By removing content farming sites and splogs and by placing low quality and contents scrapping sites at very low search level, Google is going to make its search results more relevant and meaningful.

However, not everything is in order at Google to achieve this purpose. Firstly, copyright violation and plagiarism is abundant not only on personal domains but also upon Google’s platforms like Blogspot. Google does not have a stringent policy against these offenders.

In fact, Google’s policies, especially online advertisements like Adsence, are going against original contents providers and in favour of copyright violators. The DMCA procedure of Google for redressing copyright violations is not only cumbersome and ineffective, but is also favouring contents infringers. To a greater extent it also appears that through Adsence program, Google is actively encouraging content farming, splogs and copyright violations.

Secondly, although the tweaking of search algorithm by Google has already shown improvements in Google search results, yet indexing of new articles has become very slow. This is especially true for those sites that have submitted an application for inclusion in Google news. If the articles are not indexed properly, others pick up the same and their duplicate contents appear first on the search results.

Respecting the intellectual property rights, especially copyright, of the original contents providers and awarding them with the search place they deserve at Google would benefit both Google and the original contents providers.

Presently, nothing like this is happening and Google’s claims of better search results and respecting original content provider’s interest is still not achievable. Google must put in place a system that is more responsive and friendly for original contents providers. This system must be such that spam reports must be immediately redressed and copyright violations that are apparently and patently visible must be urgently taken care of.

For the time being, content farming sites, splogs and copyright violators are defeating Google and other search engines are encashing upon this fact. I hope Google would seriously deliberate upon these aspects.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Reasons For Failures Of E-Governance In India?

E-governance in India has by and large a failure. This is because of the poor policy decisions taken by Indian government. There is too much stress upon procurement as opposed to management. India has to accept that computerization of traditional governmental and public functions are not e-governance. We have to empower the citizens with the power of ICT.

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has become an indispensable part of our daily life. It has the potential to streamline procedures, inculcate discipline among workforce, and bring transparency and accountability and reduction of costs. The benefits are tremendous provided we have the will, insight and knowledge to use it.

E-governance in India is in its infancy stage. The National E-Governance Plan (NEGP) is the umbrella under which all e-governance initiatives are taking place. However, there are very few successful and completed e-governance initiatives like MCA21 in India. Whether it is e-courts, e-readiness, legal enablement of ICT systems, e-gazette, e-commerce etc none are even close to success. So where lies the problem?

Firstly, there seems to be lack of insight among the policy-makers. The ICT polices and strategies of India are not covering the e-governance aspects at the national level. No political party ever considers e-governance as an important part of their political agenda before elections. Even commodities like onion and potatoes find place in national debates but not e-governance.

Secondly, there is too much stress upon procurement as opposed to management. India has to accept that computeristion of traditional governmental and public functions are not e-governance. We have to empower the citizens with the power of ICT. We have to make the governmental services user-friendly as well as productive and easy.

Thirdly, there is lack of transparency in governmental dealing and in the absence of the same e-governance is just paperwork. In India, we have the Right to Information Act, 2005 but the same has been a failure in India. The public information officers keep on denying the relevant information on flimsy grounds.

In exceptional cases, citizens may get some information but by and large very few people get the information.

Fourthly, accountability among governmental officers is missing. There is no mechanism through which we can punish a wrong doer for his violations and negligence. This results in a casual attitude towards public good and e-governance. If we fix accountability and time-bound progress requirements then a lot of problems can be solved.

Fifthly, public participation in both policy making and governmental decisions is missing. If we get the opinion of those who are somehow surviving at the grassroots level we can solve the majority of our problems. However, the fact is that grassroots level problems are never solved.

The induction of information technology into governance, especially at the rural level, is not an easy task due to unstructured nature of rural development, low literacy levels and reluctance to adopt information technology. Regional disparities which were already glaring in poverty, employment generation, literacy are widening further. E-governance will be successful only if we start to undertake due efforts to implement it in all blocks and districts and spread it to the grass root level.

Being the largest democratic country, India must show an example to other in this context. But in last many years we have not seen the efficiency of public servants, who are supposed to be the some of the best brain of India. For attaining developed status our public service system must work in a better way. Citizen must participate in various activities, if we really want to see India as a developed nation. Public service must be strengthened in India in true spirit, if we want to become to become a developed nation in near future.

Monday, February 21, 2011

India Should Take Cyber Forensics Seriously

It is no secret that criminals are using information technology for various nefarious activities in India. It has become very important for law enforcement agencies, security agencies and legal and judicial members of India to understand technology.

Police force plays an important role in maintaining law and order in the society. Police force is also the first level of interaction that brings together cyber crimes, high tech crimes and terrorist activities and investigation techniques. Thus, police force must be well versed with and must have sufficient training for cyber law and cyber forensics issues.

When cyber criminals and terrorists are using technology, police force and security agencies of India cannot afford to be indifferent towards the same. India has limited cyber forensics laboratories and they are already overburdened. This results in a backlog of cyber forensics investigations and crucial evidence cannot be produced before the courts at appropriate time.

Further, there is also an urgent need to have good cyber forensics research and training institutions in India. Presently, we have a single techno legal cyber forensics research, training and education centre in India. It is managed by Perry4Law Techno Legal Base (PTLB).

Home ministry of India must consider an active use of cyber forensics for effective fulfillment of its duties. The present initiatives of home ministry are far lesser than the required one. Cyber forensics is a very crucial and important field and India must appreciate its importance as soon as possible.

Friday, February 18, 2011

National Security Policy Of India Is Required

National security is very important for any nation including India. However, the term national security is also the most controversial and vague one. This has been deliberately done so that the card of national security can be played anytime to suppress civil liberties.

In the year 2008 letters regarding "constitutionality" of the proposed information technology (Amendment) Bill, 2008 (IT Act 2008) and National Security Policy of India have been sent by Praveen Dalal, Managing Partner of Perry4Law, to the Prime Minister of India (Dr Manmohan Singh), President of India, Parliament Members (Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha), Government of India (GOI), Department of Information Technology (DIT), Department of Science and Technology (DST), CERT-IN, etc.

However, not only the IT Act 2008 was passed but it expressly incorporated certain unconstitutional provisions regarding Internet censorship, website blocking, e-surveillance, etc. The result is that civil liberties are blatantly violated in India through e-surveillance, unlawful interceptions, illegal phone tappings, etc.

Had the suggestions of Praveen Dalal accepted by our Prime Minister in the year 2008 itself, lots of troubles could have been avoided. Once again he has suggested for the enactment of a lawful interception law in India.

The first and foremost requirement in this regard is to repeal the unconstitutional cyber law of India and Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 and enact constitutionally sound lawful interception laws in India.

Further, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) of India must clearly lay down what constitutes national security. CCS has to play a pro active role in this regard. This problem can be solve if the CCS works in the direction of making a suitable and constitutionally sound national security policy of India.

Let us hope that the CCS would accept the suggestions of experts this time and would come up with a national security policy of India very soon.

Cyber Law Of India Has Decayed

Cyber law of India is one of the most important laws. However, it has never been given any importance. Cyber law of India is incorporated in information technology act, 2000 (IT Act, 2000) that was amended in 2008. However, the cyber law of India has been decayed to such an extent that it needs an urgent repeal.

India urgently needs some good technology related laws. For instance, we do not have cyber security, cyber forensics, lawful interception, privacy laws, data security laws, data protection laws, etc in India.

The ministry of communication and information technology (MCIT) never bothered to give cyber law of India any strength and effectiveness. This is the reason why prime minister’s office (PMO) must interfere and do something in this regard.

In fact, the matter is so important that it deserves the attention of cabinet committee on security (CCS) of India. Cyber law of India covers many issues that are related to other projects as well. These projects are presently supervised by CCS and it would be a good idea if cyber law, cyber security and cyber forensics are also made part of the same.

MCIT has been in controversies for corruption and bad policies. It has also been too soft towards and too submissive to the industrial lobbying that never allowed a strong cyber law for India. Let us hope our honest and upright Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh would take cyber law of India seriously.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Google Search Algorithm Has Improved But Is Slow

Google’s search algorithm has improved to a considerable extent and it shows results that are difficult to find in other search engines like Yahoo, Bing and DuckDuckGo. However, Google’s web indexing has been affected badly due to these recent changes.

Previously, Google has to take care of a bug in its indexing mechanism that showed different and incorrect results. While the bug has been remedied yet posts are still not indexed and appearing properly. At times posts are indexed only after two or more days and are kept in abeyance till that time.

Further, Google has taken a good step by removing Splogs that have clogged its results. Still much has to be done regarding Blackhat search engine optimisation (SEO) techniques.

However, there is an issue that requires immediate attention of Google. Sites that are posting contents of others are finding a place in Google search engine’s first page and original posts even do not appear in the same. Many of our posts have been picked by other sites and they are appearing on front pages whereas our posts are either dumped somewhere deep or do not even exist.

This is also due to the fact that if an article has been put in a black hole by Google and is not indexed for two or more days, others who are following the Blog would post the same and their article would be indexed rather than the original one.

While Google is working in the direction of improving search results and better user experiences and expectations yet Splogs and Content Farming sites are still winning the game.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Supreme Court Irked At Pathetic Privacy In India

Finally, the Supreme Court of India took a serious note of the growing and blatant incidences of privacy violation in India by Indian government and private individuals/companies supported by it.

Supreme Court went upto the extent of saying that no person living in India is safe from privacy violations and omnipresent forgeries prevalent in India. The observation came while hearing a petition filed by politician Amar Singh regarding illegal phone taping of his communications.

The telecom company in question is Reliance Communications that is now claiming to have acted on the basis of a forged letter claiming to have authorised phone tapping of Amar Singh. Reacting sharply the Supreme Court asked the Centre why the licence of the service provider was not cancelled for such a casual approach.

This case is just tip of the iceberg as we have no lawful interception law in India. Phone tapping in India is done in an illegal and unconstitutional manner. There is no provision for judicial oversight of executive orders authorising phone tapping.

The most fatal blow came from the information technology amendment act 2008 that amended the sole cyber law of India. Through this amendment India has become an endemic e-surveillance society. There are no procedural safeguards against the orwellian powers that Indian government acquired for itself through this amendment.

The present practice of Indian government regarding phone tapping, e-surveillance and e-interceptions is far from being legal and constitutional. India urgently needs a constitutionally sound lawful interception law. Let us hope the Supreme Court would bring some order in the otherwise chaosed banana republic of India.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Cyber Law Of India In Bad Shape

Cyber law is an important legislation these days. With active use of information technology in almost every aspect of our daily lives, there is an inescapable requirement to regulate our online behaviours.

An ideal cyber law must regulate illegal and unlawful activities while giving maximum leverage to legitimate and legal dealings. Indian cyber law is doing the opposite. While it encourages cyber criminals to engage in unlimited and unrestricted criminal activities by making their criminal acts bailable, legitimate and law abiding people are subjected to unconstitutional e-surveillance and scrutiny.

There was no need to provide unregulated and unaccountable e-surveillance, Internet censorship and website blocking powers to Indian government and its agencies. But not only was it done through the information technology amendment act, 2008 but that also without any procedural safeguards.

On the other hand, the amendment also made almost all the cyber crimes bailable thereby making the cyber law of India impotent and cyber criminals friendly. The ministry of communication and information technology (MCIT) seems to have succumbed to industrial lobbying and made the sole cyber law of India a big mockery. Even Kapil Sibal seems to be in no mood to repeal the present cyber law and come up with a strong and effective cyber law.

Now it is for the Prime Minister of India Dr. Manmohan Singh to take appropriate action. He cannot afford to maintain a silence stance. Already the implications of weak cyber law and inadequate cyber security capabilities of India have started appearing. Indian cyber space is regularly invaded by crackers and foreign nations. But then who cares this is India.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Mobile Banking In India Is Risky

The idea of mobile banking in India is not new and rather it is one of the most progressive and promising initiative. However, like all other projects and initiatives of India, even mobile banking is not free from troubles.

The present banking and other technology related legal frameworks are not conducive for mobile banking in India. We do not have a well developed e-governance infrastructure in India. Similarly, on the front of e-commerce as well, India is not much successful.

However, the most troublesome legal hurdle is a weak and cyber criminal’s friendly cyber law of India. The information technology act, 2000 (IT Act, 2000) is the sole cyber law of India that does not carry any sort of deterrent effect. While implementing mobile banking in India, sound legal framework is required for banking and cyber law related issues.

There are no limits to the troubles when institutions like national payments corporation of India (NPCI) and unique identification authority of India (UIDAI) join their hands. Both Aadhar project and UIDAI are unconstitutional as they go against the very scheme of Indian constitution. Further, they are also not supported by any legal framework and are executive hegemony by hijacking the constitution.

NPCI has decided to use unconstitutional and illegal UID numbers for allowing customers to do financial transactions using their mobile phone. It may be used to open an account, make a cash deposit or a withdrawal. NPCI would use the UID number along with the customer's thumb impression for offering this service.

Surprisingly, this is proposed immediately after the reserve bank of India (RBI) has asked the banks to consider the report of one of its working group dealing with cyber frauds and cyber crimes. This initiative seems to be going against the core recommendations of that report.

Presently, banks are not performing due diligence as per the requirements of cyber law of India. Let us hope the RBI would make this initiative of NPCI /UIDAI more users friendly and safe.

Should India Use Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing is a profitable business model, especially in India. This is the reason why it has been literally imposed upon Indian netizens without telling them of the dangers of the same.

India has a weak cyber law, ineffective cyber security and lack of privacy, data protection and data security laws. In other words, cloud computing is a perfect breading ground for cyber criminals of India and word over.

Lack of regulatory and security support has discouraged a dominant majority of CEOs in India to use cloud computing for their business. Add to these woes the incidences of frequent leakage of sensitive information in India as well as growing unaccountable e-surveillance in India.

Imagine a situation where the cloud computing service providers have nothing to loose by intentional or unintentional leakage of sensitive information. They cannot be challenges in a court of law as they would not be violating any law.

Further, if the security agencies are accessing that information, even without a court warrant, these cloud computing service providers would be more than happy to oblige them.

India must first establish proper legal frameworks for privacy, data security, data protection, lawful interceptions and effective cyber laws. Equally important is a law on information security that is missing in India.

Till these laws are in place, cloud computing is a risky and undesirable model in India.

Blackberry May Get A New Deadline In India

The time limit to provide encryption keys of enterprise services of Blackberry has already expired. Research in motion (RIM), the company managing Blackberry services, is still maintaining that it has no control over the encryption keys residing at the sets of users.

However, Indian government is not accepting this argument of Blackberry and is still asking for the keys. Since the deadline is already over, it is obvious that Blackberry would get another breath of life in India.

Meanwhile, Telecom Secretary R. Chandrasekhar said the access to corporate emails sought by India's security agencies is not specific to RIM. However, the government has not sent any requests seeking access to any other companies, he said. Of course, he is hinting towards encrypted Gmail and Skype services.

This deadlock is not going to be solved very soon. However, government of India has forgotten a more important issue associated with this exercise. It is very easy to get information in plain text in real time but it is an altogether different game when it comes to decrypting a highly encrypted message.

Encryption is not limited to Blackberry services alone. There are many great free encryption software that Indian security agencies would never be able to defeat. This is so because Indian security agencies are taking the easy route rather than developing good and effective cyber forensics capabilities.

Friday, February 4, 2011

TRAI Let Down Indian Mobile Users Again

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has once again let down Indian mobile users by extending the date of telemarketing regulations till 1st March, 2011. It seems the telemarketing lobby would never allow regulation of telemarketing calls and messages in India.

TRAI first adopted the defective do not call registry instead of do call registry. Now it is shying away from imposing a ban upon telemarketing industry, which is not at all welcomed by frustrated mobile users in India.

Telemarketing is a clear violation of right to privacy but who cares about privacy in India. Indian government has openly declared its intentions to violate privacy rights of Indians by projects like Aadhar, Natgrid, CCTNS, etc. Telemarketing nuisance is just another feather in the privacy violating policy of India.

However, the matter does not end here. There is also a related and much more dangerous situation developing in India. Indian cyber law is a weak piece of law when it comes to punishing cyber criminals. Realising the potential of making quick buck, cyber criminals have now started using messages/SMS to perpetuate their favourite Nigerian scam.

Instead of an e-mail now cyber criminals are sending SMSs to unwary victims and duping them of lakhs of money in India. Since there is no scrutiny and regulations for such fraudulent and telemarketing calls and SMSs, many are getting fooled by the same.

However, Indian government in general and department of telecommunication (DoT) India and TRAI in particular are well committed to allow these nefarious activities to the detriment of common man. Mobile users must be wary of such frauds and must develop their own methods to prevent loss to themselves. The best option seems to be aware of such frauds and never reply back to them.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Encryption Is A Feared Technology In India

National security should be strengthened by technology and not threatened by it. In fact, technology seldom threatens national security but only strengthens it. Still governments all over the world are trying to make technology a villain and are using the fa├žade of national security to suppress it.

Recently, Google, Skype and Blackberry were in news for their encryption technologies. Google was asked to surrender the encryption keys of its Gmail that it, rightly and boldly, refused. Skype has not yet been officially contacted regarding its encrypted VOIP services. Research in motion’s (RIM) Blackberry, on the other hand, is in continuous controversies.

Although Blackberry has agreed to provide real time and in plain text access to its messenger services through a cloud computing environment in India yet it has expressed its inability to provide encryption keys residing at user’s servers for its enterprise services. Another deadline passed as Blackberry did not provide the encryption keys to India.

India’s intention to curb cyber security capabilities of Indian citizens became apparent when the sole cyber law of India, i.e. information technology act, 2000 (IT Act, 2000) was amended by the information technology act, 2008 (IT Act, 2008).

The government was quick enough to confer upon itself and its agencies wide and unregulated e-surveillance and Internet censorship powers, but it deliberately avoided incorporating necessary safeguards to prevent abuse of these powers. Till now we do not have such safeguards.

Even procedural safeguards and applicability regarding encryption norms in India have not been incorporated by the government till now. There are no rules regarding encryption standards under the amended IT Act, 2000.

India should not fear encryption and should not sacrifice the cyber security of its crucial organisations and systems. Criminal elements and terrorists have better methods than using mere Blackberry, Skype or Gmail. Leave these companies/services alone and develop actual cyber security capabilities so that cyber criminals and terrorists can be arrested before they engage in their nefarious activities.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Use Of ICT For Legal And Judicial Reforms In India

Information and communication technology (ICT) has been improving the lives of millions all over the world. ICT can be used for multi purposes through the mode of e-governance. E-governance can reduce the hassles that ordinary man has to undergo in India.

Anybody familiar with the Indian legal and judicial system would tell you that it horrifying in nature. A common man dares not to engage in court proceedings and prefers to settle his disputes outside the courts.

Even growing rates of retaliatory crimes show an increasing distrust towards our legal and judicial system. There is an urgent need to bring suitable legal and judicial reforms in India and nothing can bring speedier and effective reforms than use of ICT for legal and judicial purposes.

The only problem seems to be that we lack good techno legal institutions that can implement techno legal ICT legal and judicial reforms in India. Except a single techno legal training and consultancy institution managed by perry4law techno legal base (PTLB), we have no institution that can implement use of technology for legal and judicial purposes.

Till the month of February, 2011 we have still to establish the first e-court of India. We have still to streamline and adopt use of online dispute resolution (ODR) in India. Without an active use of ICT, Indian legal and judicial system cannot improve.

The call is for the law minister Mr. Veerappa Moily to take and it is high time for him to deliver results as till now only promises have been made in this regard.