Indian gov't wakes up to risks of using Hotmail and Gmail
By Annie Banerji, AFP
December 9, 2013, 12:02 am TWN
NEW DELHI -- Worried by U.S. spying revelations, India has begun drawing up a new email policy to help secure government communications, but the man responsible for drafting the rules still regularly uses Hotmail.
Like many of his peers in ministries across New Delhi, IT Minister Kapil Sibal's office recently sent an email inviting journalists to the launch of his new personal website using the free email service.
Others, including senior foreign ministry officials, the information and broadcasting minister and the health ministry secretary, also use Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo instead of their government accounts.
When asked why he continued to use his Hotmail for official use, Sibal declined to comment, but a senior bureaucrat in his ministry admitted that he personally preferred Gmail because it is “just a lot easier.”
“We keep moving, get different designations, go different places and with that, our emails change. You lose contacts and important emails, which you don't need to worry about with a Gmail account,” the bureaucrat told AFP.
“To be honest, the quality of our official mail isn't that great yet. It still needs some work,” he added on condition of anonymity.
IT security expert Sunil Abraham said the use of Gmail and the like was highly risky since the American services had their servers in the U.S. and the National Security Agency has been known to tap into their database systems.
It is unclear how many state and federal public workers actively use popular email services for office, but some of the estimates are startling.
“As much as 90 percent of government officials use private email (services) for official use ... that's because their official email is not as stable or speedy,” said Abraham, executive director of the Bangalore-based Centre for Internet and Society.
In September Sibal's ministry announced a new “Email Policy of the Government of India” in the wake of spying allegations about the NSA revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.