After computers, internet is one of the most useful technologies developed by mankind. What was once a boom for the world, now poses a great threat to privacy in the present. In fact, data phishing, data monitoring, data hacking has been a rising concern since the beginning of the 21st century. When it comes to privacy concerns of the consumers the United States of America, being the world super power adopted the policy of “buyer beware” and the rest of the countries followed like beehives. The problem lies where big companies that you trust so much use your data to influence your behaviour.
Data monitoring has been in practical for years now. It is nothing new. In the pretext of Research and Development, companies have been using personal data to influence people into utilizing their services. In fact, this technique is even frequent in politics. The menace of coronavirus has resulted into scores of data being monitored by the States which makes data monitoring more visible than ever.
With the cataclysm of coronavirus that has befallen us all, can we trust these technologies?
As a consumer when you buy something from big shops or malls, you are required to give them your personal information such as your name and phone number. The smart phone is the key. Your mobile phones have apps. YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp are just names. Data can be easily bought and sold. Your data.
These big companies, and these mobile applications have access to your mobile location. Tracking someone through their location is easy. X-Mode, a company that tracked ‘Spring Breakers’ in Florida, U.S.A. to understand the extent and spread of the COVID-19 used location-based tracking. They are said to be working in compliance with Europe’s GDPR and meet all security standards. But, what about those companies which are not ethical?
The most widely used app in China is WeChat. You can pay bills. You chat, play games. WeChat even lets you display SOS messages on screen. WeChat is an all-rounder. WeChat uses customer data to enhance the consumers’ experience. It also helps Chinese government to monitor data and remove anti-government elements. The government could therefore easily pick-up people from their homes, if they are sick! They even censored all memes and messages that compared Mr. Xingping with Winnie the pooh.
South Koreans are always on the internet. Their government told them that they are going to get messages about their testing results, if they come in contact with an infected person and the places that an infected person went to. Easy to handle the pandemic. This explicit intimation to the public will ultimately hold the government accountable in case of any data breach.
The Indian government tried to utilize similar method as that of South Korea. India got its own Aarogya Setu that only monitors your location to avoid the spread of coronavirus. The government should be able to avoid more cases through the help of the app.
The only problem with location tracing is your mobile phone. Your mobile phone continuously sends and receives signals. These signals recognise the servers which you regularly use and servers which are new to you. For an example, through your location, one can access your phone logs, places that you’ve been through (cities, restaurants etc.), how often you frequently and a place, who you meet, your Instagram likes, everything. Through this, anybody’s behavioural mechanisms can be drawn and a set of behaviours can be directly linked to a person. They just have to put a name on it.
The K.S. Puttaswamy judgement held that, it is the duty of the state to have a framework for protecting its citizens from the breach of privacy. The government brought a Data Privacy Bill, last year. This bill emphasized on how the consumers should be safeguarded and under what conditions such safeguards would be withdrawn. The Data Privacy Bill is still pending in the Indian Parliament. The government can do three things:
1. Deny, completely and utterly that there will ever be a data breach with any of its software.
2. If caught, the Indian government can use the pendency of the Data Privacy Bill and avoid getting punishment under Section 84;
exercise their own Fundamental Right and say, “to get punished for an offense, a law must be in force at the time of commission of the offense.”
3. Just apologize and say, “What’s been done, is done.” And do absolutely nothing about it.
– Ridha Dhawan
Member, REPORTER’S COMMITTEE