Opinion DC Comment 12 Dec 2019 Carte blanche to spy ...

Carte blanche to spy on all

DECCAN CHRONICLE. | DECCAN CHRONICLE
Published Dec 12, 2019, 12:22 am IST
Updated Dec 12, 2019, 12:22 am IST
The Parliamentary Joint Select Committee has its task cut out to water down the draconian provisions.
 The Parliamentary Joint Select Committee has its task cut out to water down the draconian provisions.

The dystopian scenario of 1984 is not a nebulous concept anymore. It is real and very much at hand as the government of India will be seeking virtual carte blanche to spy on any or all of its citizens through the Personal Data Protection Bill 2019. The title of the bill is a misnomer. While the operative word in it is “protection”, what it aims to do is to empower any agency of the government to call for such data in the name of protecting the sovereignty and integrity of India and a host of other things like public order and even friendly relations with foreign states. In short, Big Brother will be watching.

People might just get the uncomfortable feeling there is a “dragon” breath on their necks though they are living in what aspires to be a modern democracy in the digital age. The bill which was tabled in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday runs counter to the spirit of the recommendations of the Justice Srikrishna committee incorporated in the draft bill of last year and allowing scrutiny of personal data as a rare exception rather than the rule. Those who can call for such scrutiny will all be bureaucrats, allowing unfettered spying by government agencies to go on without even the cosmetic sanction of judicial authority, at least as it used to be in the case of telephone tapping.

In effect, we are going back to the days of intrigues and whispers in which citizen will be pitted against government in all consuming atmosphere of fear and suspicion. After having made considerable fuss over localisation of data in the name of greater accountability, the government has gone soft on behemoths of the global “new economy”. The issue of protection of personal data and privacy might pale at a time of much contentious legislation, but if it becomes law, this will have an insidious effect on personal freedoms. The Parliamentary Joint Select Committee has its task cut out to water down the draconian provisions.

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