Online Privacy and Encryption

As a growing number of Indians come online there is a sense of being under a perpetual state of surveillance. While the use of personal information to deliver advertisements is a historical model for internet services, the dangers it poses are becoming clear only now. These risks emerge from both, private and state entities.

Without privacy, internet users modify their private behaviour out of fear. It takes away the ability of people to make important choices about their life --- it removes personal autonomy. It is important to consider that India at present does not have any comprehensive law to protect the privacy of internet users and this requires further work.

Many people do not understand privacy and some even dispute its very existence. This stems from a lack of proper articulation on privacy -- given that privacy is a bundle of rights. We aim to create awareness on privacy and practices which can be followed by Internet users to protect it.

The legal right to privacy is under severe threat in India. Due to submissions by the Union Government in a case concerning the constitutionality of India’s biometric identification program the fundamental right to privacy has been thrown into doubt. India also does not have a comprehensive privacy statute. We support the constitutional right to privacy and believe a comprehensive, citizen friendly law to enforce it is urgently needed in India.

Beyond a legal right to privacy its understanding will constantly evolve as technology becomes more pervasive and can capture more personal data. In situations such as these it is important to understand the benefits and risks associated with technology and then prescribe applicable policy and legal fixes. We believe that increased technology adoption has immense value which can be properly harnessed within a privacy framework.

The internet and digital technologies today provide tremendous utility to our daily lives. With time our dependence on them will only grow. There is a need to keep the personal data that is collected from each person by such services. This can to a large measure be implemented by secure communications. We believe that data security should be implemented through the wider adoption and legal recognition of advanced encryption technologies in the interest of end users.

The legal surveillance regime in India follows an imperfect, non-transparent executive system which works without any scrutiny. There is an acute absence of any checks and balances which leads to phone tapping provisions being abused. We believe that any system of surveillance requires prior-judicial review and notice to the person when the surveillance ceases.

The snowden revelations have illustrated the creeping nature of secretive mass surveillance where each bit of data is mined, extracted and analysed. This is the very definition of a surveillance state which prevents transparency on itself and at the same time keeps a constant watch over citizens. We are concerned with the recent announcements of mass surveillance programs in India which do not operate under any clear legal authority. We oppose mass surveillance in principle and believe it is inconsistent with our fundamental rights under the Constitution of India.

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