Digital Transparency: A Right to Information Report for November 2022

tl;dr

For the month of November 2022, IFF has filed 5 Right to Information (“RTI”) applications. In significant responses, we obtained submissions made in the public consultations on the consultation paper on Need for a new legal framework governing Telecommunication in India and on the India Digital Ecosystem Architecture 2.0 from the Department of Telecommunications and Centre for Development of Advanced Computing, respectively.

Why should you care?

The RTI Act was enacted to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority by ensuring that citizens have access to information under the control of public authorities. Facilitating such access is necessary to ensure that democratic processes are not subverted by public authorities acting under private interests. Where transparency is not upheld as a value of public decision-making, citizens are at a disadvantage when it comes to keeping a check on abuse of power by the public authorities.

As we have discovered previously through responses received on our Right to Information applications, several times various government processes and programs continue with little or no transparency. This happens despite the mandate in the RTI Act, 2005 to publish and disclose information to citizens proactively.

The RTI Act is thus one of the most important tools at the disposal of the public to engage with, and demand transparency and accountability from, the Government. We use the Act to extract information about various ongoing policies and projects that the Government launches.

Data Protection and Privacy

One of our key areas of work is ensuring that public authorities respect data privacy and engage in practices that will protect the right to privacy.

Under the project, we routinely file RTI applications with various public authorities after we come across news reports that they are developing or using facial recognition technology (FRT). We filed 2 RTI applications with the following:

  1. Indian Institution of Technology, Jodhpur on their memorandum with Swiggy to develop facial recognition tools based on a media report.
  2. Delhi Public Works Department on their proposal to install CCTVs in Delhi Prisons.

For more information on the use of facial recognition technology and how it increases mass surveillance, visit IFF’s Project Panoptic.

We also filed RTI applications with:

  1. Department of Telecommunications on the draft Indian Telecommunication Bill, 2022.
  2. Ministry of Civil Aviation on the policies governing the DigiYatra Ecosystem.
  3. Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology on the Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, 2022.

Significant responses received:

  1. In a significant response, the Department of Telecommunications shared with us all responses it received on the Consultation Paper on Need for a new legal framework governing Telecommunication in India. We received these responses independently. However, they were first made publicly available by Aroon Deep, Journalist.
  2. The Centre for Development of Advanced Computing shared with us the responses it received in the public consultation on the India Digital Ecosystem Architecture 2.0. We have written a letter of appreciation to C-DAC for furnishing the responses.

Help us help you

In case you want us to file an RTI application on an issue which includes any active or proposed program, scheme or initiative of the government impacting the digital rights of citizens, you can fill out this blocksurvey form and we shall then file an RTI application with the concerned authorities. Alternatively, you can also write to us [email protected].

Important Documents

  1. Digital Transparency: A Right to Information Report for October 2022 dated November 18, 2022. (link)
  2. Digital Transparency: A Right to Information Report for September 2022 dated August 14, 2022. (link)
  3. Digital Transparency: A Right to Information Report for August 2022 dated November 01, 2022. (link)

This report was drafted by Gyan P Tripathi, Policy Trainee, IFF, and reviewed by IFF staffer Prateek Waghre.