Phones were customised: Centre

Phones were customised: Centre


They were given to officials after public enterprises modified them

The Home Ministry said on Tuesday that the Google Pixel phones given to bureaucrats were customised and issued under a pilot project of the Electronics and Information Technology Ministry for “secure communication”.

A Ministry spokesperson said that since it was a project of MeITY, the “technical details” would be available with them.

Asked why Google and private telecom operator Reliance Jio were roped in for a critical communication project, the spokesperson said: “While the handset and the telecom service provider are important determinants of security, the critical aspect is the application on which the communication [both voice and data] is based. If it is secured, encrypted and appropriately certified, security issues can be broadly addressed.”

An official said on Tuesday that it had roped in two public sector enterprises to modify the phones. Reliance Jio SIMs were used in the modified phones as it had the best 4G reception at present.

The Hindu reported on Tuesday that customised Google phones, with Reliance Jio SIMs that have a pre-stored phone directory of numbers of all officials above the rank of joint secretary, were given to selected bureaucrats around two months ago. Confirming that the government gave out modified phones to 80 officers under the pilot project, a source said they were jointly customised by the ECIL, under the Department of Atomic Energy, and the C-DAC, under the Ministry of Electronics and IT, in accordance with the specifications issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

“We had received phone security specifications from MHA, and also a list of 100 officers to whom the phones are to be given,” a top MeITY official said.

The phone till now has been sent to 80 officers across various ministries.

The official added that other high-end phones were also tested but only Pixel adhered to the specifications given by MHA.

“As per the specifications provided by MHA, the phone and the network was required to by 4G,” said the official.