Right to privacy and us

Nikhil Bhave
Monday, 4 September 2017

Recently, in what can be called as a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court established right to privacy as a fundamental right. While the ruling was regarding an appeal concerning the Aadhaar project, it holds high importance for those without Aadhaar.

Our privacy is online every moment. When we open the Internet, we are being tracked by search engines. When we visit news sites, we are tracked by ad agencies. Sure, there is an incognito mode in browsers, but how many of us use it or worse, even know about it?

Recently, in what can be called as a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court established right to privacy as a fundamental right. While the ruling was regarding an appeal concerning the Aadhaar project, it holds high importance for those without Aadhaar.

Our privacy is online every moment. When we open the Internet, we are being tracked by search engines. When we visit news sites, we are tracked by ad agencies. Sure, there is an incognito mode in browsers, but how many of us use it or worse, even know about it?

As far as the Aadhaar is concerned, an individual has every right to be concerned. There have been multiple instances where the data was allegedly exposed. The biggest hazard is once biometric information is breached, there is no chance of it being usable again. You can reset a PIN or a password, but you are stuck with your fingerprints for life. Then there is that worry factor called identity theft, too.

Will the ruling ensure that Aadhaar ceases to exist? Not likely. But the project will now have to comply with the judgement. So, the ruling is a shot in the arm for the right to privacy. The hard part: enforcing it.

The Internet is fast becoming a part and parcel of our life. But with corporates comes the factor of revenue, which brings us to the various practices used by companies to get more data on their users to push content (mostly ads) specifically tailored to the user’s needs. Towards this end, there are trackers and plugins embedded in various sites. These cannot only imperil our privacy, but the ads also cost valuable data.

How much do we really care about such matters? Before we download any app from the Google Play Store, it gives us a list of what it will need or gain access to. Have we ever asked why a photo editing app needs access to our call records or why does game need access to information about our wi-fi?

Even if we manage to answer these questions, it is still questionable if we would be able to enforce privacy policies strictly, as far as the Internet is concerned. Most of the firms using such techniques are based outside India, and enforcing them will take some time.

What is good news for private individuals is that data mining will be much harder after a framework of guidelines is put forth. But that is the marketing professionals concern.

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