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Right to Online Privacy Without Rules

Telecommunication in days of inception was controlled. Trunk calls were booked through telephone  exchanges .This was followed by direct dialling. Broadcast and television services on the other hand could be only availed in privacy of our home. Internet has broken down the walls. It is a two way communication though most of us use it as one way unaware that we are being watched.
In service centres and offices, privacy laws apply to the biometric system of recording working hours of staff which is adopted as the regular mode by offices in metropolitan cities.
The FTC (FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION) in US found that some two third consumers of the internet are concerned about potential misuse of their personal information online. In the US, you furnish personal information, if you buy something online as it is purchased through credit card. 57% of internet users in the US obviously due to various fears/ experiences have decided not to purchase online due to privacy concerns.

Raw Nerve of the Consumers

We are at one of those watersheds where we either work to enhance confidence in internet/ online or else will reverse online usage for fear of losing identity and confidential information. This is called "PRIVACY" for a citizen and need to provide SECURE Communication for the State. The citizen does not know whether to opt in or opt out .So, there is a wonderful tool but we have to make sure that we keep consumer confidence alive. Marc Rotenberg,(Executive Director of Electronic Privacy Information Center on Internet Privacy and Profiling ) before the US Senate Commerce Committee United States Senate  remarked that it is basically operating in an environment without rules. There are basic benefits but putting personal data while contracting  the consumer does fear losing control as businesses are not expected today to follow any rule. Thus the tension is bound to accelerate.
Discussions of new technologies that may be comparative e.g. P3P (Pulse Pay Protocol) a protocol to greatly simplify consumer privacy preferences as it goes forward. Thus the fear at present is that it is unpredictable that the market will work. It will be premature to legislate before we have concrete information as opposed to evidence.
The Indian Privacy Code, 2018 is a synthesis of Supreme Court judgments, including the landmark judgment in Justice K.S.Puttaswamyvs Union of India (2017)10 SCC1 .
There is no law to protect Privacy Rights in India. The Indian Information Technology Act, 2000 was amended by bringing in Information Technology (Amendment) Act, 2008.The amended Act substituted the expressions preconditions of “public emergency” and “public safety” which are grounded in the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, with “investigation of any offense” disguising more powers to the government .
In a nutshell Justice A.P. Shah in the report of A.P. Shah committee set up by the Planning Commission recommends that the government has the maximum amount of power and information on the people of India. It is imperative that the government, its arms, bodies and programmes be compliant with the privacy protection principles through a data protection law. We support the use of digital technologies for public benefit. However, they should not be privileged over a private citizen's fundamental rights.
The government is responsible for the delivery of many essential services to the public of India. These services must not be withheld from an individual, due to such individual not sharing data with the government. Withholding services on the pretext of requirement of collection of data effectively amounts to extortion of consent. Individuals cannot be forced to trade away their data and citizenship at the altar of being permitted to use government services and access legal entitlements on welfare.
Recommendations of Justice Shah Committee include a strong body be set up to ensure that the data protection rights are put into practice and enforced. To make sure this happens the Privacy Commission must have jurisdiction over the government, as it does over the private sector. The Privacy Commission should have overriding power and superintendence over all legal entities in matter of data protection and privacy.
As we harp on the Right to Privacy we need to ponder whether with increasing dependence on the internet and smart equipments as consumers of online trade are we compromising our privacy to portals and retailing done through emails.
‘Cyber needs to be safer’, is the cry of the CONSUMER.
By Rekha Dayal
Consultant, Consumer VOICE

Divya Patwal


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