Is virtual world monitoring by government infringement of privacy or necessity?
It has been reported that last month the Indian government quietly started a project called Central Monitoring System. This gives complete access to the Indian government of India's public and private telecommunication network. Every online conversation exchanged, sms forwarded, social media gossips could and would be looked upon, monitored and scrutinized by government officials.
While the government has stated that it is important for the safety of India, are citizens feeling at ease with the decision? Sudipta Sengupta, an avid online social networker and working in the new media sector looks at the issue from all sides. “It is necessary step from the security point of view. No terrorists attack would be then planned over the virtual world
but then what about the privacy of the common man? If CBI reports, which are supposed to be confidential, can be circulated online then any other literature can be easily susceptible. Moreover who would monitor the information or as the Roman saying goes, ‘who will guard the guardians?” Sengupta asks.
attack in 2008 has given enough reasons for the government to keep a tab on the virtual world but this move is worrying the experts. Pavan Duggal, advocate and expert on cyberlaw told this citizen journalist
, “Monitoring is not a problem but it should not harm civil liberties. Just based on suspicion anyone and everyone’s privacy should not be infringed. If such mechanics is in place then where one draws the line and stops from prying?”
Debarati Halder from Centre of Cyber Victim Counseling, who is also an advocate and an expert in cyberlaws was firm that this kind of system should not be in place. Citing examples, she said, “It may be noted that even the newly formed anti-stalking law in S.354B of the Indian Penal code in its exception clauses also mentions that breach of privacy in digital media by police or other person empowered by government order can fall outside the scope of anti-stalking law when it (the breaching of privacy) is pursued under any law or to comply with any condition or requirement imposed by any person under any law; or for preventing crime etc. But nonetheless, this move and the legal provisions need to be debated. Our police may be influenced by political parties. The best example is Palghar girls’ Facebook comment case. Also, majority of the police officials are unaware of the actual law. Political pressure, pressure from the heavily influential people may actually make the officials to do more harm than good. Hence I feel such governmental move must be stopped unless proper assurance is given about no-disturbance of privacy of common innocent people.”
Although a lot is not known about the project but most people would not appreciate someone prying on their search history, virtual conversations or their mails. So what is the solution? Every strata is corrupted so much so that even the government cannot be trusted. Thus in such a situation is it a good move, and will the citizens know that they are monitored when such a system is put in place?
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