In late September 2015, the Indian government published an ill-conceived and poorly drafted national encryption policy which would have had severely detrimental impacts on privacy, freedom of speech, national security, foreign investment, and the regular business of the telecommunications and Internet industry in India. After public uproar and international ridicule, the policy was withdrawn on the eve of Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Silicon Valley to invite investment in his Digital India project. This post simply breaks down encryption and examines the motives and implications of the policy. Click the title to read more.
[Excerpt] Because of its disjointed development, the constitutional basis of the right to privacy in India remains muddy. Indian courts have yet to craft a privacy rights jurisprudence that responds to surveillance, morals-based denials of personal choices, and forcible collections of bodily information. There are wide gaps in the right to privacy through which the collection of biometric information for the Aadhar project could easily slip through, perhaps even be made compulsory.
[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.