Press Release: Airtel 3G Script Injection

We as users of telecom services and members of the Indian tech community, were shocked to learn a few days ago that Airtel was carrying out unsolicited packet injection into all content viewed over its 3G networks.

It was revealed that Airtel was tampering with its user's online communications on its 3G network, and maliciously inserting advertisements into its user's data. This ensured that all users of Airtel's 3G networks were forced to view certain specific advertisements inserted by Airtel, irrespective of the content they chose to view on the Internet. Further, by interfering with the data packets to and from its customers terminals, Airtel has clearly acted in violation of the privacy rights of at least thousands if not millions of Indian citizens and has rendered their online communications unsafe.

The aforesaid revelations, made in public interest, by an Indian citizen, Thejesh GN, has however brought about an absolutely unethical and disproportionate response. An Israeli company, Flash Networks, purporting to be the creator of the software responsible for the illegal packet injection on Airtel's networks has issued a 'Cease and Desist' notice, that threatens civil and criminal action against the Bangalore based developer. In a mala fide and clearly desperate attempt to silence any talk of Airtel's violations of Indian citizens constitutionally protected rights, Flash Networks has also had the relevant explanatory content posted by Thejesh taken down from the Internet. The initial violations of privacy and network neutrality are now being compounded by an attempt to violate an Indian citizen's rights to free speech!

FSMI appeals to all other groups working on net neutrality to oppose Airtel and Flash Networks illegal and unethical actions and share this code widely, thus defeating corporate attempts to muzzle citizens right to free speech (which are only intended to cover up acts of corporate malfeasance).

Sharing the relevant portion of the code is merely intended to illustrate the methods used by telecom companies to illegally and unethically mine user data thereby rendering their communications and personal data vulnerable. This serves the purpose of educating the public on a vital issue concerning the violation of Constitutionally protected rights and encourages others to continue to expose the use of malicious code against users by telecom companies, without their consent.

In defence of Net Neutrality

Net neutrality stipulates that all web-based services or websites have to be treated equally by the network operators i.e., telecom companies. What these companies are proposing is to offer either a limited Internet consisting of only a few services and websites pretending it is the whole Internet; or speed up or slow down the sites and services, based on who pays them and how much

It is for the first time since the consultation process on the issue of net neutrality has been initiated by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) that more than a million Indians have given their responses, though there are 10 more days for the last date to send the responses. This attempt to violate net neutrality and pave the way for the ‘Enclosure of the Internet’ is being rejected by all sections of the society, barring the telcos and a section of the Internet companies.

FSMI's Replies to 20 Questions of TRAI on Net Neutrality

Question 1:
Is it too early to establish a regulatory framework for OTT services, since Internet penetration is still evolving, access speeds are generally low and there is limited coverage of high-speed broadband in the country? Or, should some beginning be made now with a regulatory framework that could be adapted to changes in the future? Please comment with justifications.

FSMI hails decision of Supreme court landmark judgement on Section 66A of IT Act

Free Software Movement of India hails the Supreme court of India's landmark judgement that struck down Section 66A of the IT Act. A bench of justices J Chelameswar and R F Nariman had on February 26 reserved its judgement after Government concluded its arguments contending that section 66A of the Information Technology Act cannot be "quashed" merely because of the possibility of its "abuse". In their order, the court said, Section 66A is violative of Article 19(1)(a), not saved by Article 19(2), hence unconstitutional. The apex court also said Section 66A of IT Act clearly affects Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression enshrined under Constitution. Free Software Movement of India congratulates all the activists, democratic minded citizens, media, policy makers, advocacy groups, communities and organisations who have come together and fought against this act.

For any queries please write us at : ask@fsmi.in

FSMI calls on Government of India to remove the Blockade of nearly 32 Websites

The Government of India has on December 17, 2014 ordered Indian ISPs to block 32 websites including various code sharing and information exchange platforms such as GitHub that are commonly used by companies, techies, students and researchers.

In the absence of any requirements of transparency in our laws pertaining to blocking content, the reasons for this act of censorship are unclear, with the media reporting that this act of censorship was carried out to prevent the influence of ISIS on young Indians.

It is however evident that the Government has acted with haste and without adequate application of mind to the matter. In case specific content had to be blocked, the corresponding web pages should have been blocked and not blocking of such popular sites such as vimeo, Internet Archives etc. Censoring access to sites such as these violates fundamental rights of citizens and retards innovation and scientific progress.

GitHub is used by millions of software developers around the world to share code and exchange ideas. Given the importance of the technology sector to the Indian economy, denying Indian citizen’s access to one of the world’s most popular code-hosting websites is a retrograde step and only harms the efforts of the Government to promote development of the software sector in India.

FSMI calls on Government of India:

FSMI statement on blocking of GitHub and other sites

Over the last few days, there have been reports that internet users in india are not able to access services like GitHub, PasteBin and Imgur. It is now increasingly becoming clear that these sites have been blocked by the ISPs (Internet Service Providers), with no explanation given. One ISP claims that these sites have been blocked as per the instructions of Competent Authority.

No mention of who the Competent Authority is nor the rationale behind the blockade have been provided. The situation with other ISPs is even worse, with a simple message that states "Service Unavailable". Netizens on the social media from across the country have been reporting on this issue, which confirms the fact that this is not a single ISP acting in isolation but a concerted effort at blocking these services. This could not have happened with out the notice of the Government.

It is shocking to note that a popular code-hosting website like GitHub, which is very popular among researchers, scientists, developers and students alike, and PasteBin are blocked. This brazen act of censorship goes against the fundamental rights of the citizens and the absolute lack of transparency in these matters is an attack on democracy and scientific progress.

FSMI wants that the Government of India to immediately revoke this unjust blocking of these services, issue guidelines and ensure transparency in the process.

FSMI on Microsoft ending support of Windows XP

Microsoft stated that from April 8th, 2014 onwards, official support to Windows XP will be discontinued. This will mean that no further updates, including security patches will be released for the operating system. A large number of organisations in India, including Public Sector Undertakings, Private Companies, Educational institutions are still reliant on Windows XP as the Operating System for a majority of their computers.

 FSMI strongly demands and recommends that all the companies, public & private, educational institutions, health care institutions, shift to Free Software Operating Systems based on GNU/Linux . Free software evolved and exists as the alternative to proprietary software that push towards a vendor lock-in. FSMI pledges support to any organisation which decides to migrate to free software based systems.

 Windows XP has been known to be very vulnerable to virus attacks, malicious software and critical security bugs. With Microsoft officially discontinuing sup port to Windows XP, this leaves the critical computing infrastructure of most of these companies at a huge risk.

Internet Freedom Fortnight Celebrations

The recent revelations of Edward Snowden have brought to fore the unprecedented massive surveillance that the NSA under the aegis of USA has been carrying out on world countries. This naturally raises serious questions on the future of internet and democracy. If the Section 66(A) of the IT Act in India acts as a deterrent to freedom of speech and expression that the citizens are constitutionally entitled to, surveillance leads to loss of individual privacy and our national sovereignty. These acts remind us of the infamous days of colonial rule, to come out of which took us hundreds of years. Today, we are heading back to the same days- our domestic policies, space research, military strategies etc., are monitored by the USA through the various surveillance mechanisms. It is time we stand up and join the movement for internet and digital freedom!

Seminar on "Internet Surveillance and Internet Freedom"

Industry, research, academics and society have progressed enormously in the past two decades, largely owing to the availability of free internet. The availability of enormous information and its easy transmission via the internet has facilitated the progress achieved thus far.

However, some of the recent happenings have brought to fore a widespread debate amongst internet and computer users in general and intellectuals and activists in particular. If SOPA and PIPA in the United States of America made the future of internet look bleak, the more recent and infamous Section 66(A) of the IT Act in India raised serious doubts about its constitutional validity. 

AICTE removes the mandatory clause from the notice on implementing Office­365.

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A delegation from the Free Software Movement of India and other groups have submitted a representation demanding the revision of the decision of the AICTE making the usage of Office-365 mandatory on the 30th of April 2013.

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