[Summary] Because privacy enjoys an abundance of meanings, it is claimed in diverse situations every day by everyone against other people, society, and the state. Traditionally traced to classical liberalism’s public/private divide, there are now several theoretical conceptions of privacy that collaborate and sometimes contend. Indian privacy law is evolving in response to four types of privacy claims: against the press, against state surveillance, for decisional autonomy, and in relation to personal information. The Indian Supreme Court has selectively borrowed competing foreign privacy norms, primarily American, to create an unconvincing pastiche of privacy law in India. These developments are undermined by a lack of theoretical clarity and the continuing tension between individual freedoms and communitarian values.
[Excerpt] The Central Monitoring System (CMS) is an attempt to co-opt the interface between government and the purveyors of communications; because if the state cannot control communications, it cannot control society. It represents the natural culmination of the progression of Indian surveillance. However, in its present state, Indian surveillance law is unable to bear the weight of the CMS project, and must be vastly strengthened to protect privacy and accountability before the state is given direct access to communications.
On 20 August 2014, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta spoke to me about privacy and surveillance law in India on Lok Sabha Television (LS TV). The Lok Sabha is the lower house of India’s parliament, and LS TV is the state parliamentary broadcaster. The discussion covered constructions of privacy norms, defences to privacy, the Aadhar card scheme – India’s biometric identification project, telephone and Internet surveillance, wiretaps, the identity of rape survivors, DNA collection for family disputes, ‘sting’ journalism, the harm principle, and free speech.
[Abstract] The Supreme Court of India will soon deliver its judgment in the case of Ratan Tata v. Union of India that examines important issues of free speech and privacy. The case deals with the interception of telephone conversations over several years, the ‘leak’ of those confidential telephone conversations to reveal large-scale impropriety and corroboratory evidence of wholesale corruption, and the publishing of such information by the press. In these series of posts, I will examine: (a) the free speech right of the press to publish confidential information in the larger public interest; (b) the right of the public to know of corrupt and illegal activities versus the duty of confidentiality and official secrecy; and, (c) the breach of the statutory or tortious duty of confidentiality in respect of taped conversations. This first post looks at the background, facts of the case, and legal issues.
[Description] Under the Information Technology Act, 2000, State Governments are required to appoint Adjudicating Officers to handle certain types of disputes, and some of these powers bear upon the issue of privacy in electronic communications and of electronic records. One such Adjudicating Officer in the State of Maharashtra has deftly adjudicated disputes to successfully negotiate and uphold the right to privacy. This post examines three of his cases, which deal with privacy rights in emails and chat transcripts, and in certain financial information such as bank statements and credit card data.