The NDA Government at the Centre has shelved a proposal to create a social communication hub that had prompted the Supreme Court to observe that the country cannot become a 'surveillance state'.
'The Government will review its decision and does not propose to go ahead with the proposal' to open the software tender on August 20, the Attorney-General, Mr. K.K. Venugopal, told the court.
'The decision has been taken pursuant to certain observations made by this court,' he added.
On July 13, the court had asked the government whether the Centre's move to create the hub was to monitor social media messages. 'If every single tweet or WhatsApp message is monitored, we will be moving towards becoming a surveillance state,' Mr.Justice D.Y. Chandrachud said.
The Trinamul Congress legislator, Ms. Mohua Moitra had moved the Supreme Court against this measure.
The social media hub was supposed to be a sort of 'listening post' for the government that would harvest data from websites and apps to see what people were saying about the Modi administration and its programmes. The government has denied that the objective was to snoop.
The Information and Broadcasting Ministry proposed to hire people who would directly receive feedback from the ground to obtain real-time data on the status of government schemes.
The tender document floated by the ministry had said the platform would generate automated reports, tactical insights and comprehensive workflows to initiate engagement across digital channels.
The deeper worry was that this army would soon trawl social media and pore over messages sent on Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp to identify the government's critics, in an invasion of privacy.