A government organisation called CERT-In, or the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team, is responsible for guarding the Indian internet against threats and attacks. The organisation gathers, examines, and disseminates data on cyber occurrences, offers incident response services, and publishes recommendations and guidelines to stop cyberattacks.
The Right to Information (RTI) Act, which requires transparency in how government organisations operate, applies to CERT-In because it is a government organisation. However, due to the sensitive nature of its job and the potential harm that could come from the revelation of specific information, there have been proposals for CERT-In to be exempted from RTI.
The argument put out by supporters of the exemption is that as CERT-In works with matters of national security, revealing information might jeopardise that security. National security is supreme, and above all, according to them, the agency needs to retain a certain level of anonymity in order to carry out its work efficiently.
The exemption’s detractors contend that openness is crucial for holding government organisations responsible and ensuring they serve the public interest. They contend that any exception to the RTI Act should be provided on an individual basis and with a specific rationale.
Concerns about national security and confidentiality
The Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) is a government organisation that plays a crucial role in India’s Cyberspace against cyber-attacks and threats. The organisation gathers, evaluates, and disseminates data on cyber occurrences, offers incident response services, and publishes recommendations and guidelines to stop cyberattacks. There have been proposals for CERT-In to be exempted from the Right to Information (RTI) Act, which requires transparency in the operation of governmental entities due to the sensitive nature of the organisation’s activities. Since CERT-In deals with matters of national security, those who support the exemption claim that disclosing information might jeopardise that security. A certain level of confidentiality must be maintained to carry out the mission successfully.
National Security Issues
CERT-In handles highly classified data pertaining to national security. The agency must respond swiftly and efficiently during a cyber-attack or threat to stop any harm to the nation. However, revealing details about such occurrences can tip off terrorists and jeopardise national security.
Preserving confidentiality is essential to CERT-In’s smooth operation. The agency must engage closely with other governmental agencies, businesses, and foreign partners to coordinate response activities and exchange information. However, revealing details about CERT-In’s operations might make these attempts unsuccessful. For instance, if CERT-In revealed details about a cyber operation it was undertaking, the attackers might alter their strategy and make CERT-In’s efforts ineffectual. In these circumstances, confidentiality is essential to ensuring that CERT-In can conduct its operations without interruption. There are more factors to consider besides confidentiality difficulties and national security concerns when deciding whether the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) should be exempt from the Right to Information (RTI) Act. One of these elements is the agency’s efficient operation and ability to keep the public from panicking.
India’s cyberspace from threats and attacks is the responsibility of CERT-In. The agency must be able to run successfully and efficiently in order to fulfil this duty. This includes the capacity to decide promptly and unhindered by administrative procedures. CERT-In could operate more efficiently with an exemption from the RTI Act. The government may make decisions swiftly and take action to stop cyber-attacks without having to share information pertaining to its activities.
In addition to efficient operation, public panic prevention is crucial. The public may panic if given proper information during a cyber attack or danger. Chaos and confusion could result from this, making the situation worse. By enabling CERT-In to manage the dissemination of information to the public carefully, an exemption from the RTI Act could avert panic. The government could distribute information in a regulated manner to ensure that the public receives accurate information without unwarranted alarms.
Lack of Accountability
Good governance places a strong emphasis on accountability. It makes sure that public servants are accountable to the public for their acts and are held accountable for them. Since it enables citizens to learn more about government agencies’ operations, the RTI Act is crucial for promoting accountability. A lack of accountability can result from exempting CERT-In from the RTI Act. The agency would no longer need to inform the public, resulting in a lack of openness and possible power abuse. Abuse Possibility: Abuse might also be possible if CERT-In is exempted from the RTI Act. If there was no requirement for information disclosure, the agency could function in secret and take actions that weren’t in the public’s best interests. Without being required to divulge information, CERT-In could, for instance, carry out surveillance operations that violate the privacy rights of specific individuals. This could result in abuse of authority and a lack of faith in the organisation.
The RTI Act is crucial for fostering accountability and openness in government institutions. It enables citizens to access information about how government organisations operate and to voice their thoughts in light of such knowledge. This includes the right to critique the operation of governmental organisations, such as CERT-In. Free speech might be hampered if CERT-In is exempted from the RTI Act. Citizen’s ability to form opinions.
Freedom of speech is a fundamental right and the foundation of a democratic society. It empowers the citizens to ask questions and get the answers in return. Limiting free speech can reduce democratic participation and undermine faith in political institutions.
Limiting free expression in the instance of CERT-In might also make it more difficult for the organization to recognize and respond to online threats. To find potential risks and vulnerabilities, the organization relies on public input and expertise. Limiting free speech might restrict information exchange and make it more challenging to identify and defend against cyberattacks.
Considering a CERT-In exemption from the RTI Act is a good idea due to concerns about national security and secrecy. The organization handles sensitive information pertaining to national security, and its publication could jeopardize the safety of the nation. Additionally, CERT-In must preserve secrecy in order to operate effectively because it collaborates closely with other international partners and government organizations to thwart cyber threats. To strike a balance between national security considerations and transparency, every exception to the RTI Act must be issued on a case-by-case basis and with a clear rationale.
Author : Ms. Tanushree Saxena, Trainer, CyberPeace