Democracy needs an Internet ombudsman

  • IASbaba
  • August 17, 2020
  • 0
UPSC Articles
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Topic: General Studies 3:

  • Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life 
  • Cyber Security and Challenges to internal security through communication networks  

Democracy needs an Internet ombudsman

Context: The increasing interplay between government, companies and citizens for big data.

What are some of the Criticism of the present day Internet Structure?

  • Information asymmetry has become so huge that it has eroded the very spirit of democracy by limiting the unbiased communication of ideas
  • Data is used as means of control and surveillance, whereby powers of government for National Security and fraud detection is being misused for political surveillance
  • Increased Uncertainty: Citizens receive a flood of unfiltered information which is re-circulated into the network of social media causing much greater chaos 
  • Increasing Conservatism: Information Superhighways in democracy are leading to “re-tribalisation” of politics as Politicians are able to misuse internet for arousing passions & fragmenting society for political gains
  • Increasing Private Players in Political Messaging: While the customisation of political messaging is not per se illegal, it certainly is unlawful to indulge in unauthorised data mining and collection by the industry
  • New Interests to be balanced: There is a Triangular interplay between data protection, privacy and a flow of information, which are 21st century public policy concerns, where governments don’t have much experience in dealing with them
  • Reactive Government Policies: Indian Government banned 59 Chinese apps in the backdrop of border tensions. However, its stance on Facebook & Amazon is unclear where they are facing scrutiny on their own soil for their data mining policies
  • Governance tools under Criticism: The Aadhar Act is alleged as dilution of ‘privacy’ and the standard of proportionality test set up by the Supreme Court. Similar concerns are also raised by Arogya Setu App
  • A national policy on data privacy of individuals is still a non-starter. The Personal Data Protection Bill, struggling to be born in Parliament despite conception in 2018
  • Increasing Data Theft: India’s cybersecurity watchdog, CERT-In, last year reported huge data theft of Facebook and Twitter users by malicious third party apps
    • Reportedly, more than 1.3 million credit and debit card details from Indian banks and the data of 6.8 million users from an Indian health-care website were stolen in the same year.
  • New Form of War: There are dedicated IT cells  of organisations, governments which carry out a digital form of warfare with propaganda and fake news

Way Ahead – Should there be Regulation of Internet?

  • There should be a gatekeeper(regulator) to balance appetites for technology, security and privacy. The gate keeper is for regulation, not surveillance
  • Such a regulator has to be completely and genuinely independent. Otherwise it will perform an unacceptable legitimation function. 

Connecting the dots:

  • Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd.) vs Union Of India case
  • Justice B N Srikrishna Committee report of data protection

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