Indian bureaucrats may be asked not to use private email services for official work

India is also asking its embassies abroad to use email servers from a government agency

The Indian government is expected to require that Indian bureaucrats use email service provided by the National Informatics Center for their official work, as it tries to secure its communications infrastructure.

The requirement will be part of a proposed new email policy, said sources in government who declined to be named.

India's Minister for Communications and IT, Kapil Sibal, told Parliament about a week ago that the government had decided that all its embassies would use mail servers from the government's National Informatics Centre, which will be installed in the embassies and directly linked to a server in India.

The minister was responding to concerns from the opposition about reports of large scale surveillance of telephone calls and emails by the National Security Agency in the U.S. Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden disclosed through newspapers certain documents that suggested that the NSA had real-time access to content on the servers of Internet companies. The companies have denied their participation in the program.

The Indian government appears to have been very lax on security, despite having an email service from the NIC, with some ministers listing their Gmail addresses on their websites. It is not known whether they use these addresses for official communications as well.

Google did not comment on the move by the government to require bureaucrats not to use private services for official email communications. "We don't comment on speculation," a Google spokeswoman said.

According to Indian parliamentary records, Sibal last month told Parliament: "We are stating in that [email] policy that it is mandatory for the Government of India officials stationed at Embassies or working in Missions abroad, deputationists to only use static IP Addresses, Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), One-time Password for accessing Government of India e-mail services." He assured the members of the upper house, called the Rajya Sabha, that the email will be encrypted so that nobody else will be able to access it besides the Indian government.

Some officials are recommending that the email servers for the government employees be managed by the individual government departments on their own rather than giving all the responsibility to NIC, the sources said.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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John Ribeiro

IDG News Service
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