The Right to Privacy: A myth?

The right to privacy is a fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution of India. Such a right is not specifically mentioned in the constitution but the Supreme Court of India being the guardian of the Constitution has on multiple occasions added various facets that are essential to uphold the right to life and liberty enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution.

One such case relating to privacy is K. Puttaswamy v. Union of India where the Supreme Court heard the case of Aadhaar enrollment and the mandatory policies set by the Government of India at that time. The mandatory biometric administration was struck down and it was left to the citizens to give their biometrics at their own will. However, the extent of this is more or less arguable because most benefits and basic necessities such as a bank account need the use of registration of KYC which is done through the biometrics system used by Aadhaar system.

Coming to the current situation, the Government of India has made it mandatory for various social media platforms to comply with their new IT rules. The new IT rules specify that:

  • Under the new law, the big tech companies have been asked to appoint a chief compliance officer from India, who can address the demands and issues raised by the government. For instance, if the government asks for user data from any of the social media apps, the compliance officer will have to provide the data given that the demand is legal.
  • The companies have also been asked to set up and appoint a special grievance redressal officer, who shall be responsible for addressing the issues of the social media users. The companies have also been asked to appoint a nodal officer that will coordinate with the law enforcement authorities whenever required.
  • WhatsApp has been asked to trace a message to the original sender if the need arises. This goes against the whole WhatsApp privacy policy that the people agreed to in the first place. The app is end-to-end encrypted which means not even the company can access the chats of the users, but this new law would mean overriding end-to-end encryption on messages. Appointing the required officers seem easier than complying with a request like this. The government claims that it would help in controlling the spread of fake news.

There are many other rules that have been added in the new IT rules but these are the most important ones that will affect the users as well as the companies.

Various platforms such as Facebook group, Twitter, Amazon Prime and Netflix have been asked to regulate their content and be ready to report to the government any legal information they need.

While Facebook and Netflix have agreed to comply with the new rules, WhatsApp (a subsidiary of facebook) has approached the Delhi High Court to declare one of the rules as a violation of privacy rights because it forces the social media companies to trace the origin of the message or information when the government demands it. This law would compel WhatsApp to go against its own policy as the app is end-to-end encrypted. Tracing the originator of the message would overriding the end-to-end encryption.

Many people are worried about the ban of platforms like WhatsApp and Twitter but what needs to be asked is the democratic model and whether it is being upheld. Alongside the preposterous new rules that aim at putting an end to private chats, platforms such as twitter act as a place for active passage of information about what goes on in the country. While there is a need to weed out fake news and information, a ban would amount to an undemocratic move. Just because a platform did not comply with certain rules, doesn’t mean that they should be banned. A fine of some amount and perhaps an analysis of why these platforms are hesitant to comply should be the way to go about it. If the Government of India continues to make such rules, there will effectively be outright violations of the principles of Right to Privacy set by the Supreme Court.

The internet is already a place where privacy is considered to be a myth. Our government needs to learn how to control a situation without breaking into the rights of its citizens. There are proper rules in place in the EU that allow for both rights and certain amount of regulation to prevail. Hence, in my opinion, we need to analyse the laws already existent in other regions and make any improvements over them if they can be made.

Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.

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We also have a Facebook Group Restarter Moms for Mothers or Women who would like to rejoin their careers post a career break or women who are enterpreneurs.

You may also like to read:

How to clean Ganga – Part 10 – Aishwarya Sandeep

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How to clean Ganga – Part 11 – Aishwarya Sandeep


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