Chapter Sixteen: Afghanistan, Elite Privacy & Digital Terrorism

Last week, we discussed the ramifications of the biometric data of Afghans falling into the hands of the Taliban and the lessons that the saga holds not just for those responsible for the collection and security of data in Afghanistan but every human being across the world.

The story continues to develop. The data falling into the hands of the Taliban has put the lives of millions at risk.

It is important to reiterate here, it is not the case that the risk of harm from data collected by governments only arises when a radical terrorist organisation overruns your country.

It is used by malicious governments for depriving vulnerable communities of basic welfare services.

Those who think that they/citizens are immune to harm because they live in a relatively stable nation and their government can do no harm because the current government in power is one they like must remember that governments and rulers change.

It is important to repeat here- the Indian government as well as the government in many states of India has been collecting all kinds of data on Indian citizens without any data protection law in place.

It is doing this without having to justify why it needs the data that it wants to collect and whether those goals can be achieved equally well even without the collection of this data.

It is letting private companies demand access to biometric data with reckless disregard for the safety of Indian citizens.

Unless law and policy make it difficult for any entity-governmental or private to take data from citizens, unless strict protection is mandated for the storage of such data is citizens will remain vulnerable from harm, if not from the organisation that is collecting the data then from a variety of malicious players- such as hackers-private and those deployed by the espionage agencies of other countries.

There is another belief which says that protection of data and privacy only concern and impact the elite. That the millions who are economically vulnerable neither need privacy and/or protection of their data nor want it. What harm can any hacker or malicious actor cause to a person who is barely able to manage two meals a day is yet another misinformed belief.

This, it is important to point out is a mirror version of what colonial powers had to say when Indians insisted on self governance- that we know what is good for you and since you are poor and educated, you can not be trusted with the complex matter of governing a nation.

Before assuming what the economically vulnerable want or don't want, we must ask some fundamental questions. Are all Indians equal? Let us assume the answer will be yes. Is India a democracy? Does democracy mean that every person has equal right of participation in determining not only her own fate but also the fate of the collective?

We must then shift to other questions- has an adequate effort been made to inform the economically vulnerable about the risks of their data being collected by all and sundry without a data protection law?

Regardless of the quality and adequacy of public education about these issues, has an effort been made to determine whether vulnerable communities want privacy and/or a data protection law? Have they even asked? Just like they are asked to choose governments, vote on India becoming a nuclear power or not, vote on a variety of other matters- has anyone asked them what their opinion on the matter is?

If they have not been asked, could it be the case that arrogance, discrimination and disregard for the vulnerable is leading many to believe that they just don't want privacy?

India's Central Bank has taken one tiny step to protect citizens but it can be described as using a bandaid when the risk in question requires a vaccine.

Labour Rights

Big Tech workers of the world are uniting it seems, this time it is Apple employees.

It appears that even Amazon doesn't seem to think much of the right of workers to privacy.

In India the 'newsy' development in this area is the outrage against an advertisement released by Zomato which some said demeaned their workers and celebrated exploitation. Zomato responded with a denial.

At TypeRight we don't want to go into the details of this, we will wait to hear from Zomato not on the merits or demerits of its advertisements/PR but on its policies.

Digital Terrorism

We want to briefly touch upon a matter. You may have seen videos of certain people beating up a Muslim beggar, bangle seller, scrap seller and other daily wagers recently. An aspect of this violence which has been commented on many times by former civil servant and now peace activist Harsh Mander- the video recording of the crime.

In a piece for The Indian Express, Harsh Mander wrote:

"The members of the lynch mob in most incidents of lynching video-tape the act, and upload the video-tapes. To record one’s crimes and display these on the social media reflects a brazen confidence that you will not be punished for your crime, and even if you are nabbed, you will be a hero for the ruling establishment.

In a more recent piece, Asim Ali, who is a research associate with the Centre for Policy Research, reflects on this also. We strongly recommend you read it.

Digital Divide

Last week it was Odisha, this week it is Kerala. Digital Divide continues to take lives.

Our content recommendation this week is also a documentary on Digital Divide.

DEF

Digital Empowerment Foundation in partnership with United Way Delhi (UWD), initiated "Digital Literacy for Women and Girls". The Delhi based program aims to impart digital literacy amongst adolescent girls and women on digital literacy. 

Watch this video from the slums of Delhi-NCR’s Ghazipur to know how this program not only helps them in learning to use the modern digital devices, but also opens doors for livelihood opportunities. Click on the link below to hear the experience of Sanowar Siddiq, Centre Coordinator and Trainer of Ghazipur digital centre.

We have also along with Wärtsilä rolled out ‘Digiज्ञान’, a Digital literacy classroom that has been set up in the government Senior Secondary School in Bawal, Haryana. This programme will benefit both the students and the surrounding community.  

 EdelGive Foundation in continuing its effort of empowering vulnerable children, women, and communities through small mid-sized NGOs, has announced the Grassroots, Resilience, Ownership and Wellness (GROW) Fund. It is an initiative aimed towards building the capabilities, resilience and future readiness of grassroots organizations, committed for the betterment of people and the society. And we are an outreach partner of this initiative. To know more:

 Digital Sarthak, a national digital entrepreneurship and empowerment programme, is increasing the digital capacity of women entrepreneurs and self-help groups from rural, underprivileged and marginalized communities. The aim of the program is to provide 10,000 women with digital skills towards better access, use & benefit from digital resources.

Catch a glimpse of the training sessions conducted in the states of Jharkhand, UP & Assam: 

Until Next Week.

P.S. So far TypeRight was published every Sunday, with some exceptions (like this one) henceforth, it will be published every Monday afternoon.

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TypeRight - The Digital Nukkad, is a weekly conversational bulletin curated through the news and discussions on social media as well as what's happening on the ground. Through the eyes and ears of Digital Empowerment Foundation across rural India and global south, TypeRight aspires to focus on bringing the contextual relevance of digital technologies and developments on the society - both connected and unconnected.