Privacy rights in India have always being ignored by the Congress led government. This was done deliberately and with a sinister purpose to facilitate endemic e-surveillance in India. The Congress led government force e-surveillance projects like central monitoring system (CMS), network and traffic analysis system (NETRA), Aadhaar, national intelligence grid (Natgrid), etc without any procedural safeguards and parliamentary oversight.
Intelligence agencies of India were working in a condition that required immediate parliamentary oversight and intelligence reforms in India. The intelligence infrastructure of India needed transparency and strengthening in these circumstances. However, Congress government was not interested in bringing such reforms and it kept on violating the civil liberties of Indians in a blatant manner.
The Congress led government was also not interested in formulating suitable privacy laws for India. On the other hand, it was more interested in removing any sort of privacy protection. The Congress government kept on deferring enactment of a dedicated privacy law for India despite suggestions form many committees and experts. The natural question is can Narendra Modi government ensure privacy to Indians?
There are many problems that Modi government would face while ensuring privacy to Indians. We have no e-surveillance policy (PDF) and encryption policy (PDF) in India. We have no dedicated data protection and privacy laws in India (PDF). We have draconian and colonial laws like cyber law and telegraph law that deserve immediate repeal. We have bad cyber security conditions (PDF) and a missing telecom security policy of India. This would raise serious cyber security challenges before the Modi government in near future and would adversely impact the privacy rights of Indians in the cyberspace.
Recently telecom company Vodafone revealed that governments across the world, including India, have been using secret wires to indulge in e-surveillance upon its citizens. The Department of Telecommunication (DoT) is already investigating this issue but till a public report is issued by it very soon, the entire exercise would be time gaining exercise only.
It is high time for Modi government to take some serious steps in the direction of protecting the privacy rights of Indian citizens. Whatever the case may be, we need to ensure civil liberty protection in cyberspace for Indian citizens “At All Costs and By All Means”. The digital life of Indian citizens is not at all safe and is open to various forms of e-surveillance, eavesdropping and phone tapping. Even the very own national identity cards projects of Modi government has serious privacy and constitutional issues as per experts.
In the absence of support form Indian government, self defence is the only viable option left before Indian citizens to safeguard their digital lives. The initiatives titled PRISM Break and Reset the Net are worth exploring in this regard as a “starting point”.