Data and Privacy in Indian Context

By the Editor: Siddharth Sehgal

The other day when a TV anchor read private messages of an actor in an investigation related to the drugs angle in the Sushant Singh Rajput death case, it made me wonder like a lot of other shocked folks that you can read someone’s private chats on prime time without any regard to someone’s privacy or data protection laws.

If you are not an agency investigating crime and not have legal permission to access someone’s private data in connection to an undergoing criminal investigation then I don’t think you have any business looking into other people’s phones. It doesn’t matter how bad or prejudiced you are in private life, you can be the meanest in the world but that doesn’t mean that your privacy gets invaded by a third party, the point is that you have the right to your privacy and views that you share with your friends and family, your right to privacy should not become the TRP fodder for shady journalists.

The unwanted calls you receive from private banks for a vehicle or home loan is your data being shared without your consent. We Indians give our private sensitive information such as name, address, phone number, bank account, and credit card numbers to our banks, credit card companies, hospitals without ever realizing how this data will be used and in whose hands it will end up in.

In many government banks where they have external contractors for data entry, all it takes a simple pen drive or CD to download the list of all the account holders of that branch, and in these office desktops from the 90s there is hardly any failsafe or auditing on data privacy. If the Chinese had no problems in sweeping our social media and electronic streams for dirt on our politicians, celebrities and top public servants imagine what kind of era we are living under where we don’t have any control over our data, it’s literally free for all.

In countries like the US, France, Germany there are strong data protection laws in place that protect their citizen’s right to privacy and personal data. Even though we have stringent Data privacy rules under the Information Technology Act, I don’t think we have an auditing mechanism in place that makes sure that these laws are not violated. There is simply no mechanism in place to stop data leaks in our institutions but I don’t think such concerns are on the government’s priority list.

One Comment

  1. KYCs – a thing to think on a serious note.