Internet Privacy Issues

This blog is inscribed by Srajan Shulka.

Introduction

The most widely used and amazing tool, the Internet has the potential and power to bring a change in the lifestyle of people. The complexity of things like news, communication, shopping, and the most important knowledge of all the facts and every little and large detail of anything is now on the tips of everyone. Being this as its feature, the Internet also demands various information and a vast area that can be something personal. People can provide their personal information if they stay less careful at a time. The issues related to information and its privacy need to be considered as the Internet is a largely irregularised and an international platform. The internationality also revokes the conditions of the laws that do not apply to the originating internet activities or the others. Thus, it’s important and necessary how data and information privacy could be protected and also be achieved in global consistency and accepted by all.

Existence of Internet Privacy Concerns?

A study was conducted by the Federal Trade Commission that discovered around 92.8 percent websites gathering a type of identifying information that contained the name, email address, postal address whereas 56.8 percent collected a type of demographic information. The gathering of such information can be explained by the monetary value of the same. That creates a sense of concern about their privacy and worry about the security of personal information and the thing that it may be misused.

What are the concerns?

The concerning issues of privacy threats include some of the following internet activities:

  • Secret tracking of websites visit.
  • Selling personal information, without permission to the third parties.
  • Capturing emails or some other personal information for marketing.
  • Theft of data related to credit cards.

Issues

·      Cyber Terrorism

According to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, Cyber terrorism is the premeditated, politically motivated attack against information, computer systems, computer programs, and data which result in violence against non-combatant targets by sub-national groups or clandestine agents.

Section 66F of Information Technology Act, 2000 defines punishment for terrorism defining that anyone who commits or plans to commit the cyber terrorism shall be held for imprisonment that may exceed the captivity for life.

·      Cyber Obscenity

Many aspects related to the commission of the offense of cyber obscenity are covered and provide punishments for-

  • Privacy violation
  • Transmittal or publishment of obscene material in electronic form.
  • Transmittal or publishment of sexually explicit material, etc.
  • Child pornography

Section 66E of The Information Technology Act, 2000 defines punishment for a privacy violation.

According to this section, if any person intentionally captures, broadcasts, or imparts the images of any private area of any person sans their consent, violating the privacy of that person shall be punished with imprisonment exceeding three years or with fine not more than two lakhs rupees or both.

·      Hacking and Unauthorised Access

The breaking into a computer or a network or any act committed towards it is hacking. The desire to destruct and find interest in such activities for some monetary gains or a sense of taking revenge out of some personal grudges, it can be the transferring of money from other bank accounts to their own. Unauthorized access means a kind of access to a person who is not the rightful owner or the person authorized for its access.

·      Browser Hijacking

The control on another person’s website by hacking the webserver is web hijacking that can be also known as Browser Hijacking. A malware program which without the permission of the user, changes the settings of the web browser and redirects the person to visit those websites which he did not want to. A hijacker of a browser can replace the currently saved homepage, its error page, or the used search engine with a website or the same with its own. The spyware owned by the browser hijackers may also cause to obtain information related to banking or other sensitive or personal data. Some hacking processes can be transposed easily, whilst some may be problematic to be transposed. There exist many different software programs to prevent heinous changes. The attachment to the mails, emails, and the different types of files downloaded from mistrustful websites, torrents can be a common method used by the hijackers to break into any operating system.

Simple ways to protect Privacy

The Internet is the fastest way of connecting with the world but, unfortunately, it’s not the safest one. Thus, here are some important steps to protect our valuable personal information.

  • Lockdown the hardware.
  • Use two-factor authentication.
  • Keep the social network activity private.
  • Don’t give the zip code when making credit card purchases.
  • Use messaging apps with end-to-end encryption.
  • Review permissions for mobile apps and browser extensions.
  • Disable lock screen notifications.
  • Keep the system up-to-date and use antivirus.

Grounds on which Government can interfere with Data

Under Section 69 of the Information Technology Act, 2000, any person, authorized by the Government or any of its officer specially authorized by the Government, if satisfied that it is expedient or indispensable so to do, in the interest of sovereignty or integrity of India, defense of India, security of the State, friendly relations with foreign states or public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offense relating to above or for investigation of any offense, for reasons to be recorded in writing, by order, can direct any agency of the Government to intercept, monitor or decrypt or cause to be intercepted or monitored or decrypted any information generated, received, transmitted, or stored in any computer resource. The scope of Section 69 of the Information Technology Act includes both monitoring and interception along with decryption for investigation of cyber-crimes. The Government has notified the Information Technology (Procedures and Safeguards for Interception, Monitoring, and Decryption of Information) Rules, 2009, under the above-mentioned section.

The Government has notified the Information Technology (Procedures and Safeguards for Blocking for Access of Information) Rules, 2009, under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, 2000, which deals with the blocking of websites. The Government has blocked access to various websites too.

Computer-related offenses

Section 66 provides that if any person, fraudulently or dishonestly does any act referred to in Section 43, he shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years or with fine which may extend to Rs 5,00,000 or with both.

Penalty for Breach of Confidentiality and Privacy

Section 72 of the Information Technology Act provides for penalty for breach of confidentiality and privacy. The Section provides that any person who, in pursuance of any of the powers conferred under the Information Technology Act, Rules or Regulations made thereunder, has secured access to any electronic record, register, correspondence, book, information, document or other material without the consent of the person concerned, discloses such material to any other person, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 2 years, or with fine which may extend to Rs 1,00,000, or with both.

Related Cases to Privacy

·      Justice K.S. Puttuswamy & Anr. vs. Union of India & Ors.[1]

In this case, the Supreme Court order, the issue of privacy was discussed in light of the Unique Identity Scheme. The question before the court was whether such a right is guaranteed under the Constitution of India, and if it is, the source of this right, given that there is no express provision or section for privacy in Indian Law. The Attorney General of India argued that privacy is not a fundamental right guaranteed to citizens of India. Eventually, the Court left the question to be deliberated by a larger constitutional basis since the earlier judgments that denied the existence of the right to privacy were given by larger bench than the cases where the right to privacy was accepted as a fundamental right. This led to unresolved controversy, leading the Court to refer the matter to a larger bench to be settled. This was settled in the 2017 ruling that there was a fundamental right to privacy in the Constitution of India.

·      R.M. Malkani vs. State of Maharashtra[2]

In this case, the Supreme Court held that although telephonic conversations of individual citizens are protected against high-handed interference by tapping, illegally obtained evidence would still be admissible in court. It was held by the court that although the conversation was recorded without the consent of the person that would not prevent it from being admissible as evidence.

·      State (N.C.T. of Delhi) vs. Navjot Sandhu @ Afsal Guru[3]

 In this case, the Court held that the pre-requisite conditions under a special statute such as the Prevention of Terrorism Act for admitting the evidence collected against the accused through the interception of wire, oral or electronic communication have to be complied with before accepting such material as evidence.

Conclusion

It is in the world we live where the maximum amount of data is not in our control. The data are stored in clouds, stored by different organizations or companies that might not think of our privacy. The technical strategies and ideas people can provide and implement keep them mostly around the edges. India currently follows no legislation or specific rule of law regarding the privacy of the internet and the protection of data in the country. It is not possible to imagine our lives without the internet, so the idea of not having any email addresses or not to issue a credit card is mere imagination.

The government is somehow responsible for the things that take place around us and being a public issue the government owes a duty to work in this field and ensure the privacy of the internet and the protection of the data. The government should employ technologists in different technological sectors that must work on the limitations and shortcomings of the internet that leaks or copies the data and does not ensure privacy. If we can create threats to society for some monetary profits, we also are capable to find a breakthrough for it and work for the betterment of the dependency on the internet. The issues are heinous and many but if we and the government work properly, the remedies and legal actions can be way more effective than we can ever think of.

FAQs

Which section defines ‘Punishment for cyber terrorism’?

Section 66F of the Information Technology Act, 2000, defines ‘Punishment for cyber terrorism’.

Which section defines ‘Punishment for disclosure of information in breach of lawful contract’?

Section 72A of Information Technology Act, 2000, defines ‘Punishment for disclosure of information in breach of lawful contract’.

Reference


[1] Writ Petition (CIVIL) No. 1014 of 2017    

[2] 1973, AIR 157

[3]  2005

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