‘Privacy concerns on Natgrid unwarranted’

Allaying fears that the Natgrid may encroach on individual privacy, Home Minister P Chidambaram said high safeguards would be in place for quick access to information on terror suspects.

New Delhi: Allaying fears that the National Intelligence Grid (Natgrid) may encroach on individual privacy, Home Minister P Chidambaram said high safeguards would be in place in the centralised data system created for quick access to information on terror suspects.

"There is fear of new knowledge and new technology. Faced with these, people shrink or hold back," Chidambaram said in an interview to a news channel on the opposition the home ministry had to battle to get the Natgrid approved by the cabinet last week.

"There will be a large number of safeguards for the data and the individual to whom it belongs. It (the Natgrid) doesn`t own or store data but only indexes data. Fears of data theft and privacy concerns are unwarranted," he said.

Chidambaram said if there was a data leak it would not take place at Natgrid or because of it "but because of poor security systems of the owners. These need to be enhanced".

A brainchild of Chidambaram, Natgrid took several months to get the cabinet`s nod. The project was hanging fire since December 2010 because of objections of the defence and finance ministries, which voiced fears that it would give the home ministry uninterrupted access to all information.

The home minister denied that the clearance was delayed because of a turf war between the home, defence and finance ministries. "It has taken us months to convince others. Everyone is convinced. Home ministry is not the owner of the Natgrid, but just its sponsor."

He also dismissed criticism that Natgrid would make the home ministry overbearing. "There will be only some authorized users. Even the home minister will not be one."

He said the Rs 2,800-crore project will be in place in 18 months.

The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has objected to the idea of putting all intelligence inputs into one centralised grid saying it may have serious consequences. BJP`s Arun Jaitley criticised Chidambaram saying the minister believed there was no one as "wise" as him.

The home minister dismissed the BJP leader`s remark. "I concede Jaitley is more intelligent... But these are off the cuff remarks... You cannot reduce a sophisticated system to the simplistic form of an open library system."

Chidambaram said intelligence officials with the help of Natgrid would be able to study the behaviourial patterns of individuals and organizations. "It will be for accessing data, but it will not store any data by itself. The Natgrid system will get the highest security clearance - SAG 3 or SAG 4."

According to Chidambaram, with the Natgrid in place, goof-ups like the one in India`s Most Wanted list could be avoided.

He said such mistakes underlined the need for a system of indexing data.


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