On the second anniversary of the Indian Supreme Court’s landmark judgement which declared the Right to Privacy as a fundamental right under the Indian Constitution, former Supreme Court judge Justice BN Srikrishna, opined, “A Data Protection Bill is the need of the hour. We have to go beyond the stated intent of data collection to understand the motives and eventual uses to which it can be put.”
Justice Srikrishna, who headed the Expert Committee that drafted the Personal Data Protection Bill 2019, was the Chief Guest at the Privacy Supreme event, organized by global technology non-profit organization, Mozilla and the Indian digital rights advocacy organization, the Internet Freedom Foundation.
On being asked about the biggest challenge he thinks Indian citizens are facing, as the data protection bill still awaits introduction in parliament, he said, “Meaningful informed consent remains elusive for most citizens. The intent and consequences of consent must be clearly explained.”
The event also brought together experts from various fields including policy, advocacy, human rights and technology to discuss the impact of the KS Puttaswamy v. Union of India judgement, and how it has paved the way for discussions to assert a citizen’s right to privacy.
The speakers, included Public Interest Technologist and researcher, Srinivas Kodali, Raman Chima from Access Now, Shreya Rastogi – Associate, Project 39A, Amrita Johri from Satark Nagrik Sangathan and Nayantara – Programme Manager, Internet Democracy Project; who explained how privacy affects spheres as diverse as data protection and surveillance to criminal justice to right to information to gender and sexuality rights.
Sharing her thoughts on the relevance of the judgement, Amba Kak, policy advisor at Mozilla, described, “In a period of two years, this landmark judgment has already been applied in several major cases, diverse in scope and subject matter like the decriminalization of adultery, the legalization of same sex relations, the right of women to access Sabarimala temple, and the legality of the Aadhaar project.” She concluded, “While this judgment has played a critical role in rooting privacy in the concepts of dignity and autonomy, the lasting legacy of this case will eventually be its ability to bring long-term social change in how people and institutions think about privacy.”
The guests also witnessed a special video message from Mitchell Baker, Executive Chairwoman of the Mozilla Foundation, who shared, “We need to treat personal data as personal, and not as a national asset. As I travel through countries, I see data privacy topics are becoming important parts of the mainstream conversation. We shouldn’t expect governments to get it right on their own. Moving forward and making privacy more practical and real, requires citizen engagement to help governments understand and to design good laws and good practices.”
In his closing remarks, Executive Director at the Internet Freedom Foundation, Apar Gupta, said, “Two years is a relatively small time in terms of analysing the impact of such historic decisions. This is a process that evolves over time. However, what we need at this juncture, is to have healthy conversations and openness to engage amongst the civil society and decision makers. This will help reach consensus towards a stronger data protection bill, putting citizen interest first.”