ISP Bungle Earns Customer 50 Days In Jail

Dennis Faas's picture

An Indian man has spent 50 days in prison after his Internet service wrongly accused him of posting images that insulted a historical figure.

Police swooped on the home of Lakshmana Kailash K, a 26 year old technology worker, after offensive pictures appeared on Orkut, a social networking site run by Google. The images depicted Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, the 17th century founder of India's Maratha empire.

Officials asked Google to hand over the IP address of the poster, then checked with ISP Airtel to find the person behind that address. Airtel incorrectly told them it belonged to Kailash. He was then arrested and not released until Saturday, which some sources claim was three weeks after police found the real culprits. (Source: The Register)

The blame game is already underway. Netaji Shinde, the Assistant Commissioner of Police responsible for the arrest, told local media "We did our investigations on the IP address provided to us by Airtel. It is not our fault and Lakshmana should take Airtel to court and not us."

A Google spokesperson said the company would only breach customer privacy when legally required. "In compliance with Indian legal process, we provided Indian law enforcement authorities with IP address information of an Orkut user"

Airtel admitted to its mistake, with a spokesman saying the company was "deeply distressed by the severe inconvenience caused to the customer." (

CNET writer Chris Soghoian says the case shows why Internet users in countries with tough censorship laws should consider using 'anonymizing' web proxies such as Tor. These allow users to make posts such as blogs without being traced by authorities.

Unfortunately for Mr Kailash, his case has come too soon to be covered by a proposed law which would ban any US company such as Google from providing such details. The Global Online Freedom Act would make it illegal to hand over identifying information to a foreign official unless the Department of Justice deems it part of legitimate law enforcement. However, the act remains in the congressional committee stage. (Source: CNET)

Until then, it seems even high-tech law enforcement can be plagued by human error.

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