Sunday, 4 September 2016

The joke of Privacy

It is nothing short of an irony how the "scam of privacy" is so successful. Companies and governments promising us our own data are 'stealing' with our consent. And that is no wonder too. For as citizens we have blindly accepted the diktats of big brother and the shadowy business being run.

Some time back there was a debate regarding the Aadhaar bill being ratified by the Parliament. Privacy experts were worried about the handling of bio-metric data of the citizens. There is a fear that the information can be used for purposes that no one is aware of. Also, the Supreme Court has rapped the Centre on making Aadhaar compulsory for availing government services. A point to note is the Attorney General's remarks regarding this bill. He is claimed to have said that, "poor will not rant about their privacy, that only rich do." Are you listening? So privacy, which is a basic right for a dignified living is stripped off because of their material circumstances. This pretty much sums up how governments view the poor.

Another issue about FBI trying to hack an alleged terrorist's smartphone was drawn to the court. Apple had refused to aid the agency which caused furore as people debated whether national security or an individual's right is supreme. Here the deal was clear. But what when the governments disguise their ulterior motives under the neat packet "national security"? When in Tamil Nadu a cartoonist is arrested for sedition after "defaming" the Chief Minister. When two teenagers are held in Maharashtra for their Facebook comments.

No right, of course, is ultimate and absolute. Even a murderer's right to life is taken away. But the problem is the arbitrary declaration of superiority of one right over other on a dubious and questionable claim. And this applies to many shady practices of MNCs.

Recently, WhatsApp gave its users an option of sharing their numbers with Facebook. Most of the apps ask for contact, location, messaging, camera and other details. Even when you cannot draw any connection as to why would they need it! Many applications wouldn't update if you do not agree to lay everything bare before them. So, it is not only the governments but the industry too after your data. And to think that claim themselves as securing our data.

Whistleblowers across the world have exposed the dirty dealings with big business and states. The business here can be arms industry lobbying for foreign intervention to sell its produce. It can be those waiting to exploit the rainforests of South America or South East Asia for coffee or palm oil. Or it can internet service providers sharing user's data with the governments.

We, as users and enlightened citizens should not let one of our basic rights to be violated. The promises that are made to us are usually never remembered. And all this is under the name of "to offer better services". It is time that we claim back what is ours.

Written by Rishya Dharmani
"Life is not a mystery, as they say, rather it is simplicity itself. Unlearn, fail and realize the true joy."

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