A judgment that addresses 21st Century networked society [ Aug 25 2017 : The Times of India (Kolkata)]

The techno-legal community and digital rights activists feel that the Supreme Court's judgment could have a wide-ranging impact on the petition challenging the data-sharing arrangement between WhatsApp and its parent company Facebook, and even on the recent beginnings that have been made in the drafting of a data protection framework by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai). Nikhil Pahwa, founder of technology news website Medianama, and a core member of the Internet Freedom Foundation, says that with this judgment, the state-citizen relationship will not be unequal anymore. “People today generate truckloads of data, and various entities collect, mine, and use it. We need to have the right to control and recall this data. We are vulnerable when it gets leaked. The government has said data is the new oil. I'd say data is power. The SC has given power back to citizens,“ says Pahwa. Apex court advocate Apar Gupta lauded the ruling for expanding the scope of privacy .“Privacy has not been given a singular definition, but it has been expanded to Article 21. It is a comprehensive expansion where it is seen as a form of liberty , which is essential for accessing other rights,“ says Gupta. Rahul Narayan, a lawyer who assisted senior counsels appearing for the petitioners, said he was “thrilled“ with the “well-written“ judgment.“They have identified facets of privacy instead of giving it a fixed definition, which is how it should be,“ he says. Earlier this month, Trai released a paper for public consultation on the issue of data protection and privacy .The court said it would leave the matter of putting a data protection regime in place “for expert determination“. Mishi Choudhary , legal director at Software Freedom Law Centre (SFLC), says the order is a milestone in the fight for the right to privacy .“The world's largest democra cy has now spoken on the question which we all face because 20th century constitutions, let alone earlier ones, did not tend to speak of the right to privacy... in terms which allowed its application to needs of human beings in the 21st century networked society .“ The 547-page judgment dedicated a section to “informational privacy“ which it has identified as “a facet of the right to privacy“. It has called for an evolutionary approach to privacy in the information age, where one can anticipate technological changes and legal responses to the same. The unanimous nature of the verdict had many pleasantly surprised. “I don't think any judge wanted to be on the wrong side of history ,“ says Pahwa of the 9-0 verdict. Gupta says it is a criticism of the “government's opposition to the existence of the constitutional right to privacy , which was with the narrow intent of preventing an expeditious hearing in Aadhaar cases.“
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