A big thank you from us to you for making this event a SUPREME success

This post outlines the sets the context for the state of privacy in India, its significance for the annual flagship event, it summarises the three conversations held, and thanks the audience for making the event a Supreme success.

25 August, 2023
5 min read

Six years of the historic Puttaswamy judgement. Five years of Privacy Supreme. Four years since the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 was introduced in Parliament. Three years of COVID induced privacy invasions. Two years since the Pegasus Project revelations. One year of the Data Protection Bill being withdrawn after years of consultation. One day of hosting the fifth Privacy Supreme event.

How do we feel about the status of privacy in India currently? How do we feel about the six year tumultuous journey since privacy was reaffirmed as a fundamental right? Is privacy truly supreme today? These are some questions that we asked our audience to ponder over and respond by pasting relevant cat stickers, embodying their emotions, on our most widely appreciated art piece at Privacy Supreme, 2023. The art below includes screenshots of headlines from the historic privacy judgement day (August 24, 2017).

2017 left us with high hopes and a feeling of optimism. Six years later, today, we have a data protection law which leaves us wondering - is it better to have a legislative vacuum or a notified legislation which prioritises data processing over data protection. In the journey between, we witnessed more lows than highs, slowly turning our optimism into pessimism.. Nevertheless, our fight towards upholding our constitutionally guaranteed right continues to be fuelled by the spirit of  the Puttaswamy judgement, which held that the right to privacy is protected as an intrinsic part of the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21. Privacy Supreme is a celebration of this undying spirit and a vital reminder of the losses in the fight to sustain the right.

IFF held its annual flagship event, “Privacy Supreme”, yesterday, on August 24, 2023 from 5:30 PM at India International Centre, New Delhi. This year we marked the sixth anniversary of the Supreme Court of India’s historic Puttaswamy judgement. With this edition of “Privacy Supreme”, we attempted to adopt a new format wherein we the speakers engaged in genuinely fresh, healthy, and candid conversations. The themes and speakers listed below touched upon contemporary debates on the role of digital technologies, personal data, and the state of our democracy.

‘Non-artificial’ Consequences of Artificial Intelligence.

A conversation between Shivangi Narayan (Researcher, AGOPOL Project) and Samarth Bansal (Independent journalist, Writer and Coder)

How Public is Digital Public Infrastructures?

Panel discussion with Mansi Kedia (Senior Fellow, ICRIER), Rohit Kumar (Co-founder, The Quantum Hub & Y-LAC), Nikhil Pahwa (Founder, Medianama), moderated by Aditi Agrawal (Journalist)

Caste, Privacy, and Digital Technologies

A conversation between Manoj Mitta (Author) and Nikita Sonavane (lawyer and co-founder of the CPA Project). 

Shivangi and Samarth engaged deeply in an un-moderated conversation for 40 minutes. The goal of this deep duologue was to encourage an open exchange between them, and break away from the predictability of panels. The speakers contextualised the current discourse around AI, i.e. the hype around generative AI, and unravelled the real life, tangible consequences of AI on human rights. They delve into the presence of bias and issue of inaccuracy in facial recognition technologies as well as the wide use of AI technology for policing despite evidence and research highlighting associated concerns.

The panel on DPI took up a tech policy buzzword and broke down its definition, investigated India's aim behind pushing for DPI, discussed existent and ideal governance structures, both in the country and globally, and explored the non-technical implications of DPI which lead to concerns around ownership, privacy, security, identity, and accountability. Rohit, Mansi, and Nikhil, moderated by Aditi, left the audience examining their own use of certain infrastructures and its human and economic impact on the public.

Manoj and Nikita led a captivating discussion, wherein they investigated the intricate relationship between technology and caste. They helped the audience learn and unlearn their understanding of caste dynamics and its influence on their experiences on the internet and vice versa. For instance, the speakers highlighted the underlying bias in data because the “data is caste”. The speakers for the duologue took up a pertinent, yet under-explored issue and unravelled it with extreme nuance.

The event witnessed overwhelming participation, with over 400 registrations and approximately 160 attendees. For our audience, which was a mix of technology policy professionals, lawyers, students, journalists, among others, we wished to embark upon an innovative journey with fresh themes and formats. With this event, we hope to have encouraged conversations on and a fresh outlook into the world of "tech policy"  and digital rights discussions, and invigorate the discourse on privacy.

Privacy Supreme was supported solely by “We the the people of India”, with no ‘official sponsors’. Any success we achieved with this event is a testament to the generous and unwavering support of our many donors and members. We extend our deepest gratitude to them for standing by us in a time where democracy faces challenges and uncertainties.

If you would like to help us cover the costs of this Privacy Supreme 2023 and support similar such events, we urge you to take part in our ongoing Annual Membership Drive. For this week, if you sign up as Freedom Member or higher tier, in addition to IFF & limited edition Privacy Supreme merch, we will also be sending across a signed copy of Manoj Mitta’s book Caste Pride: Battles for Equality in Hindu India, so if you’d like to dig deeper into the interaction of law and caste touched upon in our final discussion, this is the best place to start!

For those eager to relive the enlightening talks and panels, worry not – recordings will soon be available on our YouTube channel and will also be published by our media partners, LiveLaw India and The Wire. We will update this post and embed the video recording as soon as we have the final edited version.

Privacy Supreme may be over, but our will to improve isn’t. Any feedback, suggestions, and/ or comments are encouraged and welcome. We would greatly appreciate it if you could take five minutes to share your thoughts and help shape Privacy Supreme 2024 here.

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