Friday, June 6, 2014

Can Narendra Modi Government Ensure Privacy To Indians?

Privacy is a sacrosanct civil liberty that no nation can take it for granted. Yet most of the nations, including India, have been taking privacy for a ride. Till date we have no dedicated privacy law in India and this has made Indian citizens vulnerable to various forms of civil liberties violations in both online and offline worlds. To add further miseries to this situation we have draconian laws like telegraph and cyber law that deserve immediate repeal.

India’s love for e-surveillance is also well known. We have unconstitutional projects like central monitoring system and Netra that are operating in India without any procedural safeguards and parliamentary oversight. The latest to add to this list would be the national intelligence grid (Natgrid) project that has been taken up once again by Narendra Modi’s government. However, Natgrid project is a useful project as well provided it is made accountable to parliament of India.

Modi government needs to understand well the importance of civil liberties in cyberspace like privacy right, speech and expression right, etc. The government must also understand that privacy rights in the information era require a mature and well reasoned approach. It has to do what no other Indian government has done so far. Modi’s government would be required to formulate an e-surveillance policy of India that incorporate various issue in a holistic and comprehensive manner.

There is no doubt that big brother in India has been listening and watching for long but while doing so it must not exceed its limits. Unfortunately, the big brother has been transgressing upon all constitutional rights and procedural safeguards till now. Vodafone has also confirmed that governments across the world, including Indian government, have forced it and other telecom companies to install secret wires for e-surveillance purposes.

This is really unfortunate as our own government is violating our civil liberties that it was supposed to protect. According to privacy advocates, the digital life of Indian citizens is not at all safe and is open to various forms of e-surveillance and eavesdropping. In the absence of support form Indian Government, self defence is the only viable option left before Indian citizens to safeguard their digital lives. Let us hope that the Modi government would not force its citizens to adopt self defence measures.