Introduction: Wildlife criminal syndicates like any other criminal syndicates have been using the dynamic nature of communication technology coupled with digital encrption and privacy technologies to their advantage. This has significantly challenged the effectiveness of the traditional lawful interception methods used by law enforcement agencies to monitor the communications between the members of the criminal syndicates and taking suitable enforcement action against them. This highlights the need for wildlife law enforcementt agencies to deveop & adopt new strategies to keep pace with the ever-evolving communication technologies so that they can stay ahead of the criminals in their battle against wildlife crimes. Internet Protocol Detail Record or IPDR has great potential as an intelligence gathering & investigative tool in the hands of willdife law enforcement agencies to counter the challenges being posed by modern digital communication methods.
What is Internet Protocol Detail Record (IPDR): IPDR is a record of internet activities of a user which is maintained by the Internet Service Provider (ISP). This data record is generated by the internet connected devices such as mobile phones, laptops, desktops, tablets, routers etc. It provides crucial informations about the communications and online activities occuring over an Internet Protocol (IP) Network through digital gadgets. These informations include source & destination IP addresses, timestamps, protocol type, data volume, source port, destination port, source MAC Address/IMEI/other Device Identification Number etc. These valuable informations provided by IPDR makes it a powerful tool for wildlife law enforcement agencies in their fight against organized wildife crime gangs.
IPDR as a Wildlife Law Enforcement Tool: Earlier when the wildlife traffickers were predominantly using traditional telephone systems, law enforcement officers were able to keep surveillance on them through lawful interception by following due process of law as prescribed under respective national legislation. But with the growing use of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), Instant Messaging Apps like WhatsApp, WeChat, Telegram, Signal etc. and sharing of data through these platforms in an end to end encrypted manner by the wildlife criminals, this conventional lawful interception is no more as effective as it used to be. In such scenario, Internet Protocol Detail Record (IPDR) has become increasingly important for the wildlife law enforcement agencies.
Though the content of voice/video call, voice message, text message, files shared between the wildlife traffickers using the VoIP services or Instant Messaging Apps etc. can not be intercepted being end to end encrypted but the metadata of these communications contained in IPDR may provide a good insight to the law enforcement officers regarding the following:
- Physical location of the users which is very crucial to track the movement of the individuals suspected to be involved in the wildlife crimes. For example, if a suspected poacher's device connects to the internet near a wildlife protected area, it can alert the enforcement authorities who can take appropriate action to apprehend him and prevent the poaching.
- IPDR can play significant role in curbing wildlife cyber crimes. From IPDR of a suspect, it can be ascertained which social media site, websites, email accounts etc. are being frequently accessed by him. This may help the investigator to know if the suspect is operating on Facebook, X, Instagram, certain e-Commerce sites, YouTube, Online Community Forum etc. for illegal wildlife trade and build the case against him.
- IPDR can also assist the wildlife crime investigators in following the money trail as through IPDR analysis they can gather the information about the Banking sites, Crypto-Exchanges etc. he might be regularly accessing. From the concerned Banks & Crpto-Exchanges etc. details of his financial activities might be obtained which may further build the case against the suspect. Information received from Crypto-Exchanges such as wallet address may also reveal if the suspect is also operating on darkweb for illegal wildlife trade by running the wallet address on the darkweb forensics tools.
- IPDR can also be helpful in analysing the patterns of communications between the users. This may also provide crucial lead to the investigators about the various individuals who are part of the same willdife crime syndicate.
- IPDR can also significantly help in busting transboundary wiildlife criminal syndicates. Different players in the supply chain may be sitting in different parts of the world. Through their IP addresses contained in IPDR, the wildlife crime investigators can collect detailed informations about them from their counterparts in the foreign country through Letter Rogatory/Mutual Legal Assistance Request etc. and extend their investigation across the border also, get them arrested, get them extradited to face the criminal prosecution and also get their proceeds of wildlife crimes forfeited by following the due process of law.
- Though IPDR alone can not be a conclusive evidence gainst the accused of wildlife crimes but if collected following due process of law and corroborated with other independent evidences, it can be of evidentiary value during trial of the accused in the court of law.
Legal Framework in India related to IPDR and it's Admissibility as Evidence: In this regard, following legal provisions are relevant:
- Section 69(1) to Section 69(4) of Information Technology Act: Section 69(1) empowers the Agencies authorized by the Central and State Governments to obtain the IPDR of a suspect subject to the provisions of Section 69(2). Under Section 69(3), Internet Service Provider is bound to provide the IPDR as requested by authorized Agencies under Section 69(1). If an Internet Service Provider fails to provide the IPDR he would be liable for punishment with an imprisonment of a term which may be extended upto seven years and with fine under Section 69(4).
- S.O. 6227(E) dated 20/12/2018 issued by the Cyber & Information Security Division, Ministry of Home Affairs: Ten Central Government Agencies empowered by this order under Section 69(1) of the Information Technology Act , 2000 read with Rule 4 of the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Interception, Monitoring and Decryption of Information) Rules, 2009 can obtain IPDR from Internet Service Providers. Similarly State Governments can empower their own Agencies for this purpose.
- Section 3 of the Indian Evidence Act: Under this Section, IPDR being an electronic record is treated as documentary evidence.
- Section 65B(4)(c) of the Indian Evidence Act: Every IPDR has to be accompanied with Certicate under this Section which has to be signed by a person occupying a responsible official position in the Internet Service Provider Company. Without this Certificate the Court may not admit IPDR as an evidence.
- Section 45A in the Indian Evidence Act: When in a proceeding, the court has to form an opinion on IPDR, the opinion of the Examiner of Electronic Evidence referred to in Section 79A of the Information Technology Act, would be a relevant fact.
- Circular No. 20-271/2010 AS-I (Vol.-III) dated 21/12/2021 issued by Department of Telecommunications: As per this Circular all Internet Service Providers need to maintain the IPDR for atleast two years and thereafter destroy them unless directed otherwise.
- Directions under sub-section (6) of section 70B of the Information Technology Act, 2000 issued vide F. No. 20(3)/2022-CERT-In dated 28/04/2022 by Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology: Data Centres, Virtual Private Server (VPS) providers, Cloud Service providers and Virtual Private Network Service (VPN Service) providers, shall be required to register the following accurate information which must be maintained by them for a period of 5 years or longer duration as mandated by the law after any cancellation or withdrawal of the registration as the case may be:a. Validated names of subscribers or customers hiring the services b. Period of hire including dates c. IPs allotted to / being used by the members d. Email address and IP address and time stamp used at the time of registration / on-boarding e. Purpose for hiring services f. Validated address and contact numbers g. Ownership pattern of the subscribers / customers hiring services.
- Circular No. 8520-01/98-LR/Vol.(IX)Pt.I dated 16/11/2021 issued by Department of Telecommunications: Vide this Circular all Internet Service Providers have been directed to maintain the following IPDR Parameters (IPv4 & IPv6) to be stored in respect of Wireless/Wire line Internet Services:
Conclusion: As discussed hereinabove, it is obvious that by harnessing the wealth of data offered by IPDR, wildlife law enforcement officers can gain unprecedented insights into the movements, communications, operations of wildlife criminals and about their larger network also. These informations empower them to deploy their limited resources more efficiently, respond promptly to the threats of poaching & illegal wildlife trade and bring the perpetrators to justice. While IPDR is a powerful tool, law enforcement officers must strictly adhere to the constitutional and legal provisions realted to privacy of the user and data protection while collecting & analyzing IPDR.