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Fwd: Anti-piracy in India: Balancing the diverse needs of all citizens

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  • Thiagarajan Arunachalam
    From: *karmayog - tanya* ** http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/ZNxUrGbCuJbdQkCuaa6uwL/Thirty-years-on-from-1984.html 1984 all over again Rigid anti-privacy laws
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 17, 2013
      From: karmayog - tanya



      1984 all over again

      Rigid anti-privacy laws based on the norms and desires that prevail in the
      West are likely to tie India's hands

      Narayan Ramachandran

      Last week, Bloomberg news reported that sales of George Orwell's novel 1984,
      featuring a futuristic totalitarian state jumped on the Amazon.com website
      following reports of a classified programme that lets the US government
      collect personal data.

      The Washington Post and The Guardian had reported earlier that a top-secret
      US electronic surveillance programme allows the US National Security Agency
      (NSA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to access data from
      audio and video chats, photographs, emails, documents and connection logs
      from the biggest US Internet companies.

      All that sounds eerily similar to Orwell's novel that portrays a dystopian
      society where individuals are monitored by television screens everywhere and
      overseen by a leader called Big Brother. The whistleblower, Eric Snowden, a
      former NSA contractor, who revealed the programme to The Guardian,
      acknowledged that his life would change completely as a consequence but said
      in justification, "I'm willing to sacrifice all of that because I can't in
      good conscience allow the US government to destroy privacy, Internet freedom
      and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive
      surveillance machine they're secretly building."
      From the point of view of privacy, the world has changed dramatically since
      the events of 9/11.

      As every traveller knows, travel has gone from being an enjoyable experience
      to a nightmarish one with identity checks, document requirements and
      frequent security scans. We are now photographed in almost every public
      place in major cities around the world. There are now millions of cameras in
      malls, airports, train stations, traffic junctions and even the public parks
      in New York, London, Chicago, Sydney, Shanghai, New Delhi and Bangalore.

      After the recent bombings at the Boston Marathon, authorities had to scan
      through hours of footage from government surveillance cameras, private
      security cameras and smart phone captures of the public. They then used
      facial recognition software to parse the mountain of video data and release
      the pictures of two suspects within days of the bombings.

      When you retreat from a public place and turn on your computer or
      smartphone, you are being tracked again. The latest revelations about
      widespread monitoring of the Internet usage, emails and photos combined with
      information about Global Positioning System (GPS) locations and server IDs
      map you to anyone who cares to look carefully. There is a raging debate in
      the West about the extent of surveillance and the cost-benefit of being
      observed most of the time. There is widespread support for public
      surveillance as of now, but snooping on private behaviour on the Internet is
      likely to inflame passions.

      As with everything else, the picture in India is much more complex.
      Terrorism concerns, privacy issues and identity debates are intertwined.

      India is, at once, at least three countries. India A is a middle-income
      country with educated citizens who have global mobility, upward trajectories
      and (almost) western concerns. India A's citizens are worried about being
      captured on footage and about being tracked online. India B is an aspiring,
      middle-class country.
      They are less worried about privacy and more about getting ahead. If the
      trains and buses run on time as a result of a thousand cameras, they are
      happy to live with it. India C is a poor country. India C's citizens are not
      bothered about privacy, online or offline, because they have nothing to
      loose. They are desperately trying to access the ramp of the mainstream
      highway. They seek a basic identity, so that they can begin as individual
      citizens to see some benefit of a growing economy.

      Navigating the three Indias from the point of privacy is no simple task.
      Although the constitution does not contain an explicit reference to a right
      to privacy, this right has been read into it by the Supreme Court as a
      component of two fundamental rights: the right to freedom under Article 19
      and the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21. In the absence
      of constitutional protection against search and seizure (similar to the
      fourth amendment in the US), India has flirted with several draconian
      provisions in law, especially anti-terrorism laws.

      At the same time, India has embarked on a massive biometric identification
      project to provide basic identity, and with it, access to the services of
      the state. India is taking its first steps towards privacy regulation with a
      draft law based on former justice A.P. Shah's expert group report on privacy
      and data protection. Rigid anti-privacy laws based on the West at this time
      are likely to tie India's hands at precisely the moment when much of its
      citizens (India C) need a path ahead. Balancing the diverse needs of all
      citizens will require debate, wisdom and the willingness to tread a unique
      Indian path.

      PS: "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary
      safety deserve neither liberty nor safety," said Benjamin Franklin. "Freedom
      is the right to tell people what they do not want to hear," said George

      Narayan Ramachandran is chairman, InKlude Labs. Comments are welcome at

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