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Digital World: Dangerous, Dark And Duplicated!

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Technology runs at the speed of a panther but the Government of India is crawling at the speed of a snail when it comes to the amendment of IT laws. The penetration of the Internet in the last decade has been exponential and everyone is connected to it in some way or the other. With that, the risk of technology somehow causing trouble for you has also increased and if there aren’t any laws to protect you, you’re doomed.

Here’s what IT laws in India currently look like…

1. They move at the pace of a tortoise

With recent data leaks and threats in the online world, we clearly get an idea of how vulnerable our data is to online crimes, thefts and offenses. In a scenario like this, Digital India seems to look like a distant dream. To expand India’s digital footprints, there is an urgent need to look into the IT and internet laws which are pretty outdated. IT laws came out in the year the 2000s and by the time we entered 2004 it was already too outdated. With technological advancement at the speed of lightning, our laws amend at the speed of a tortoise. For instance, despite the push for digitalization, there are no dedicated laws on digital payments in India which to protect the online consumers. While the banking transactions are regulated by the RBI, there is no specific law for digital payments made using digital wallets like Paytm or FreeCharge.

The same is the case for cyber laws. There is so much ambiguity that the authorities are not even aware of the right category to lodge an FIR.

2. Where there is nothing like privacy…

Online privacy is more like a myth than a reality in the world of Cookies and Caches. They are digital spies that are found on a page in the form of images, text etc that keep a track on everything we do online to further improve suggestions. The two major threats exposed in breaching online privacy are; a personal gain of third parties and the risk of losing out personal data to an unwanted presence on the web.

A report, which compared India’s data protection regime globally, reflects how we are lacking behind and exposes the various loopholes. The report calls for protection of not just sensitive information, but all personal information. With more and more people feeding the social media apps with their personal information, the more is the data is vulnerable to be used by unknown parties like data miners, brokers, advertisers for their personal gain. Apart from citing a lack of statute to recognize privacy rights and rights over personal data, the report also suggests seeking the consent of the individuals before collecting all the personal information.

3. Where plagiarism has become a cakewalk…

With advancement in technology, we have seen a surge in duplication of contents on the web. Duplication is dwindled using copyright laws but how to implement the same for digital content is still very ambiguous it means that we are not competent enough to stop duplication online. It leads to an easy copy of an already existing work but very difficult for the rightful owner to defend or protect their content owing to the outdated copyright laws.   However, there is another side of the copyright issue too which is, in order to curb duplication of content we are latently monopolizing the bigger fish in the content sea. The bigger names take the skewed copyright policies and ban the budding creators from entering the existing market and thus killing competition at the base level. Like JK Rowling held copyrights even after the series ended. She brought into reality the book The Tales of Beedle the Bard. It was a children’s book introduced in the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and in order to not let go of the copyright she published this book too.

So, there are two sides of the coin and both are equally depressing in the way they are executed because of laws that are not very online content specific.

4. Where fake news spread faster than forest fires…

We often hear silly death rumors about prominent personalities, celebrities or some political or diplomatic figure. In the age of digital media, information spreads at the speed of wildfire. In India especially, there is a growing pattern of fake news being spread through Whatsapp networks, which is even harder to track. Remember the various rumors spread through the Whatsapp groups during demonetization. Further, there have been various riots and communal riots which have been incited due to the spread of fake news.

It could be a good thing but the problem with this is that it then gets very difficult to trace back the source of the news and hence there’s no one liable to take responsibility of fake or wrong news. No one can be held accountable for rumors or fake news so it goes unpunished and we still have not figured out a way to overcome this problem. Sometimes this news causes enough harm in form of defamation or other forms. These get pretty ugly at times like in the case when a BJP leader made a public statement against Arundhati Roy saying, ‘she should be tied to jeeps in Kashmir instead of civilians.’ The reason for such a harsh comment by the minister was apparently inflicted by a non-existing interview Roy gave to a Pakistani reporter. Such instances have the potential to culminate in rather worse circumstances.

5. Where the government can track you for no specific reason…

Cyberwar amongst countries is a real threat in contemporary settings. The more data we feed in the computers the more vulnerable we are to these getting bugged and used in order to exploit us. Let’s take Social Security Number or Aadhaar as an example on a very superficial scale. Both these are ways of Government surveillance and in the U.S. it’s still a lot more systematic, digitized and way more protected than AADHAR is right now. If we do a vivid imagination of leaked Aadhaar details an entire personality can be cloned or faked online and it can be used against in so many ways. So, in the current scenario where our cyber team is not well facilitated a scheme like Aadhaar is more of a threat in the form of Government surveillance than a protecting shield.

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