Digital Privacy and the Illusion of Choice – The Tribune

My second op-ed on privacy, published in the August 20 issue of The Tribune. Original title: Digital Privacy and the Illusion of Choice. Link.

Unknown to many, the draft Personal Data Protection Bill (PDPB) and its harbinger the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) are a crucial departure from how states have guaranteed privacy to their subjects. They mark a silent defeat against the pervasiveness of sensors that intrude our public and private lives, shifting the onus of accountability from the agents that produce to the agencies that consume.

Continue reading “Digital Privacy and the Illusion of Choice – The Tribune”

An oral history of the inapplicability of laws in cyberspace

A recent opinion piece of mine hasn’t gone down well with a clutch of lawyers at the helm of the privacy debate in India. I experienced a backlash of sorts in a Whatsapp group operating under the Chatham House rules, so I’m not in a position to share much. Apart from the fact that the article wasn’t even written keeping them in mind, the clutch imagining itself to be the sole torchbearer on the issue did disturb me.

I was aspersed and told that I don’t know the meaning of “Hobbesian” and “Libertarian” – loaded words for someone like me to use, no doubt. What followed was a minor showdown of sorts. The comment did pinch me a little, not because I’ve invested in education to hone my legal knowledge, but because I’ve always known code and law to be the realm of autodidacts. Anyone can cook, code and interpret the law. I also feared that the group could be an echo chamber, and echo chambers kill republics. Continue reading “An oral history of the inapplicability of laws in cyberspace”

Digital privacy is a Faustian bargain – The Tribune

My opinion piece for The Tribune, published on 2 Aug, 2018. It’s an abridged version of my blog post, All roads of data sovereignty lead to a dystopia.

The draft of the data privacy Bill furnished by the Srikrishna Committee is an important first step in bolstering the digital civil liberties of citizens, but it cannot address the systemic weaknesses of cyberspace that are beyond the reach of any single government.

The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad describes the creative principle of the universe as neti-neti — not this, not that. It hints at the subtle symbiosis, the fluctuating nature of opposing forces. Digitised information, too, complies with this inherent non-duality.

Continue reading “Digital privacy is a Faustian bargain – The Tribune”

All roads of data sovereignty lead to a dystopia

My take on the draft Indian data privacy bill. An abridged version of this piece was published by The Tribune. It was also cross-posted at Medianama.

Let’s take a step back from the constant quibbling between the activists and the government. The interests of a citizen, especially in cyberspace, are aligned with that of neither. But let’s first understand the political shape-shifting of the internet in the recent years.

This isn’t a reverberation from my echo chamber, but anyone who hasn’t violated privacy at scale or undertaken mechanised cyber offence would be divorced from the reality on the ground. Or at the least, if the structural dominance of offence in cyberspace isn’t accounted for as a variable in your privacy equation, then it would remain inapplicable in the majority of the cases.

Continue reading “All roads of data sovereignty lead to a dystopia”