24, AKBAR ROAD, NEW DELHI
Highlights of the Press briefing
Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi, MP, Spokesperson, AICC and Shri Pawan Khera addressed the media today at AICC Hdqrs.
Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi said– Violating the Privacy of People has become the Norm, Modi Govt has become a ‘Peeping Tom’. Systematic & Systemic Ground Work is being laid by Modi Govt to convert India into a ‘Nanny State’! Modi Govt is opening an ‘Extra Constitutional Detective Agency’ to ‘Snoop Us’, ‘Steal our Data’ & ‘Clamp down on Freedom’!
Post the December 20th Order of Home Ministry, the Modi Govt is gearing to take another Unconstitutional step towards gross violation of People’s Right to Privacy. Thus cementing and reaffirming the concept of an image of an Orwellian State.
As reported in the media, Modi Govt and large online platforms are privately discussing how to censor and break encryption of private data, social media, emails, messages and calls.
Intermediary Rules & the Amendments:
Modi Govt is seeking to amend ‘The Intermediary Rules, 2011’ governed under the ‘Information Technology Act, 2000’.
These draft rules are now available in the public domain, thanks to privacy activists & media- but the Modi Govt did even not put these out for any kind of deliberation or public consultation. This is a remarkable shift from 2011, when under Congress-UPA; these draft rules were placed online for public consultation by the Ministry of Electronics and IT.
As reported in the media, this entire process is closed and is being held between officials of the Ministry of Electronics and IT and a handful of large social media and messaging companies who have been allowed to give comments by January 7. Why is the public being kept out of this deliberation? Why is there NO public consultation?
‘The Intermediary Rules, 2011’provide immunity for online platforms, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) – big, large, and small – for the content which is transmitted and published by end users. This allows these conduits of information to facilitate a core function of ‘free expression’ and prevents them from throttling content or overbroad censorship, thus securing our privacy.
In return, the ISP’s have to comply with legal requests for takedown of content and providing information on users – basically comply with the law. This was a principle recognized in Section 79 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (as amended in 2008).
Now Govt authorities shall be legally ending this immunity to ISP’s- which may lead to gross misuse of data by them, especially for political purposes. Why?
Modi Government will hold the key to the personal/professional data of all sections. Be it a journalist whose ‘sources’ for a particular story can now be traced or be it any opposition leader – whose strategy/discussions shall now become open to Govt scrutiny. Be it bureaucrats/officers- who do not often toe the ruling political party’s line or be it businessmen whose ‘ease of doing business’ shall now be hampered by harassment or be it ordinary citizens whose private conversations shall now become a ‘de-crypted’ file in Govt’s offices. Nobody will have the fundamental Right to Privacy and all this will only lead to an Inspector Raj !
The Modi Govt has inserted a stark amendment in these rules whereby it is stipulated that an online platform must comply with any “lawful order” to provide information or assistance within 72 hours of receiving it from “any government.”
Draft rule, 3(5) introduces the requirement of traceability which would break end to end encryption.
The amendments also require that encryption be broken to trace the origins of messages. Hence- No matter what – Encrypted platforms like WhatsApp, SIGNAL etall- which use end-to-end encryption—meaning the company itself cannot read users’ communication shall be legally bound to de-encrypt their data and provide it to the Government.
Modi Govt seems to be seeking major technical changes in such platforms as that use encryption. With the requirement of traceability of end-to-end the, platform will either need to be substantially altered or completely done away with. In nut shell either end to end encryption platforms will be dead leading to exposure of the data, calls, messages of ordinary people to Govt monitoring or the platforms will just need to be adapted at the whims and fancies of the Modi Govt. This is the perfect recipe to ensure a ‘Nanny State’! Modi ji’s ‘Gujarat Model’ of Snooping has now reached humongous proportions!
Draft Rule 3(9) is the most dangerous piece of amendment, which would be massively detrimental to online free speech. It reads as follows
What is worse that it will be done by, “technology based automated tools or appropriate mechanisms”. Such tools have been shown to be faulty, have coding biases and prone to overbroad censorship. Should we subject our fundamental right to free speech on the basis of a developing technology measure? AI censorship is the ‘Dictatorship model’ of censorship.
Modi Government has time again mocked and flouted the ‘Right to Privacy’ with brazen impunity.
Earlier we witnessed how the NaMo app asks for a sweeping access to 22 data points. The NaMo App records audio, video, contacts of your friends & family and even tracks your location via GPS. Shockingly, Data of at least 13 Lakh NCC Cadets which include personal mobile phone numbers and email ids were given to the Prime Minister’s Office for an interaction.
In January, this year, when a reputed newspaper in a sting exposed how 1 Crore AADHAAR Details can be accessed in just 10 minutes, by paying just Rs 500 in Chandigarh, the UIDAI had then filed an FIR against the reporter. Later, the editor of the reputed media house has also been replaced. Instead of being a ‘Responsive Government’, the Modi Government has become a ‘Dismissive Government’ and more so an ‘Oppressive Government’.
We have seen it in May 4, 2017, when the Modi Government is on record in Supreme Court, accepting data breach in the AADHAR Scheme. Later, the Attorney General in Supreme Court, while arguing that AADHAAR data remains safe and secure, says that the AADHAAR data remains secure behind a complex that has It’s 13-ft high and five feet thick walls, which is laughable and ludicrous, to say the least.
On November 20, 2017, the UIDAI had accepted on record that –“More than 210 central and state government websites publicly displayed details such as names and addresses of Aadhaar beneficiaries”.
Earlier too, ‘Centre for Internet and Society’, a Bengaluru -based organization (CIS). In a study published on May 1, 2017; had found that data of over 130 million AADHAR card holders has been leaked from just four government websites. Therefore this is a serious issue.
On February 23, 2018 a report had claimed that there was a Data breach which had hit the Punjab National Bank, whereby sensitive credit, debit card details of 10,000 customers were leaked. Earlier in 2016, 32 Lakh Debit /Credit Cards of various Indians Banks were compromised. The worst-hit was the State Bank of India along with certain private Banks. This was the largest data breach in India’s banking system.
We also witnessed in a media sting operation exposing a Mobile Wallet Company of sharing user data with the Govt.
The introduction of DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2018, in a hush-hush manner, is another attempt towards this mala fide objective. The Bill is marred with several serious loopholes which makes the sensitive data of citizens subjected to gross misuse.
The short point is that the Modi Government wants to create a Surveillance State but in their unseemly & tearing hurry, they have made an ugly mess of even this like in everything else. The Clarification issued by the Home Ministry on December 21st for the December 20th Order, shows that under public pressure, Modi Govt developed cold feet and is trying to put a fig leaf of propriety as an afterthought.
Similarly, if these amendments go through, these would be a tremendous expansion in the power of a ‘Big Brother’ government over ordinary citizens, reminiscent of eerie dictatorships!
Congress party’s single point demand is to withdraw the December 20th order and to place these Draft Amendments in public domain for public consultation so that India is saved from becoming a Police State!
On the statement of RSS functionary Shri Krishan Gopal that the word ‘secular’ mentioned in the Constitution comes from the deep of the philosophy of ‘Hindutva’ and it is because of Hindus that the country is secular, Dr Singhvi said I do not want to enter into this absolutely futile, disgusting debate constantly questioning our constitution, constantly doing false misrepresentations but I want to tell you one thing, that the intent behind the statement is their anti-constitution and anti-secularism mindset. I recently gave a speech, if I remember it was off the cuff. Our Constitution was made on 26th November 1949. Four days later, on 30th November 1949, there was fierce vitriolically written criticism of our Constitution and more importantly of our founding Fathers – guess by whom – in the ‘Organizer’ of that date 30th November 1949. A four day old Constitution, which is the pride of our Nation and the envy of our neighbors and which has stood the test of time, was vitriolically criticized in writing by ‘Organizer’ on the same ground that this is a western new fangled concept. It has no idea of ancient ‘Bharat’. Thereafter, you have seen in the last one year Union Minister’s official statement that we were elected to change the Constitution and we will do it. You have seen one Mr. Bisht who pretends to be ‘Yogi’ giving a similar statement from UP. You have seen several other people making Statements. I think this is another example that you have given to me. It is clear as to the surreptitious instinct and intent of this Government to change by stealth the foundation and backdrop of our democracy and remember that foundation and backdrop of our democracy of our Constitution is the only one out of 30 to 40 to 50 countries which became independent from British, Belgian, Dutch Imperialism. India is the only country to have remained a vibrant democracy on the basis of that Constitution which people like them, who are pygmies compared to our founding Fathers, want to change.