Privacy and surveillance

Under the larger issue of Data

Privacy and data protection have been the most popular responses - in law and regulation as well as in popular understanding - to issues of surveillance and dataveillance. In this section, we investigate the substance of these frameworks, their contours and limitations as well as their usefulness.

Posts & Reports

  • An anniversary we are wary about

    On 2 April 2020, the Government of India launched the Aarogya Setu app with the stated intention of curbing the pandemic—and a lot has happened with it since. Post its launch, the app was heavily promoted and made mandatory by different public and private entities for various purposes. The prescription of a state-sponsored app raises many concerns. In addition to the issue of data privacy and security, such an imposition can lead to an infringement of fundamental rights. It can exclude those who do not have access to a mobile phone.   More

    28 July

  • Thou shalt build NODEs in the air, but would that be fair? Our submission in response to the NODE White Paper

    This submission is co-authored by Tripti Jain and Dr. Anja Kovacs The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology invited public comments for consultation on the National Open Digital Ecosystems (NODE), White Paper. The paper proposes for a paradigm shift from earlier approaches to digital governance. It aims to build a citizen centric, interoperable and open digital ecosystem, in order to do that it presents certain principles and use cases. On 31 May, the Internet Democracy Project made a submission into the consultation, highlighting fundamental concerns as well as making additional comments on the NODE guiding principles against the backdrop of these concerns.

    Report 02 June

  • Call for Inputs: Surveillance and marginalised communities during COVID19

    Have you (or someone you know) been asked to mandatorily download the Aarogya Setu app by your employer, school / university, resident welfare association, or for accessing services such as healthcare? Are you having any difficulties in accessing various tech-based solutions implemented by the government for receiving financial aid? Are drones being used in your locality to enforce the lockdown? Are you or others in your communities facing any kind of stigma or discrimination due to these measures? Are you facing parental or spousal control over access to mobile phones and the Internet during the lockdown? If so, we’re eager to hear from you!   More

    28 May

  • ‘Best effort basis’: Is it indeed the best effort by the Government?

    The Government issued an order on 17 May 2020 that appeared to dilute the ‘mandatory’ nature of the Aarogya Setu app. According to this order issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs, employers on ‘best efforts’ are asked to ensure the downloading of the app. Additionally, District Authorities may also ‘advise’ individuals to download the app. This was a refreshing move as previously issued guidelines on the lockdown had made the app mandatory for both private and public employees as well as those in containment zones. At first sight, there seems to be a reason to celebrate. But is this the case in practice?   More

    22 May

  • The paper proposes to change the approach to data and consent in the data governance regime. The authors Tripti Jain and Anja Kovacs reconceptualise the existing connotations of data by putting the bodies back in the debates around consent and data governance. The paper recommends that the findings from feminist research can help in rethinking consent in data protection both at the individual and structural level. Listen to our researcher Tripti Jain explain it in details. Let us know if you have any feedback or comments, or would like to get a copy of the final paper once published.   More

    13 May

  • When and where is Aarogya Setu mandatory? We’re keeping track

    The Indian Government has launched the Aarogya Setu app as a response to COVID-19. While initially termed voluntary, we noticed that soon after its launch, the app started to be pushed by various governments, non-government establishments and private bodies as mandatory, or forced on people in other ways. Our Aarogya Setu Tracker attempts to document all these cases. Access the Aarogya Setu Tracker here. To make the tracker as exhaustive as possible, we need your help! If you come across relevant news items/orders (especially those in regional languages), please forward them to or tag us on Twitter (@iNetDemocracy). After fact-checking the item, we will add it to the tracker.   More

    08 May

  • An Exclusion Tale: Aarogya Setu’s march from optional to mandatory

    This piece has been co-authored by Tripti Jain and Tanisha Ranjit. As Aarogya Setu is becoming mandatory in a growing number of cases, it deserves to be asked: does the app ensure welfare for all - or not at all? In this column, we try to answer that question. We look in particular at the implications that the mandates pose on people’s lives and fundamental rights, especially on marginalised sections of the community. We also highlight the other concerns with the app: the issues of efficacy, potential tool for mass surveillance and exclusionary nature of the app. This opinion piece was originally published in The Quint, on 6 May 2020.   More

    07 May

  • Statement against the mandatory imposition of Aarogya Setu App on workers

    On 30 April, the Internet Democracy Project along with 44 organisations and over 100 individuals endorsed the statement against the mandatory use of the Aarogya Setu mobile application by employees of various public and private offices all over India. The Internet Freedom Foundation sent this joint representation to various Government officials, including the Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi, and Home Minister, Mr. Amit Shah. The Aarogya Setu app infringes the right to privacy and personal liberty, and is unbecoming of a democratic country. We stand in solidarity with the Internet Freedom Foundation and other rights based groups and Individuals to call it out. The full text of the letter can be found on the IFF website as well as below.   More

    02 May

  • Data as Body

    We are thrilled to share our work as a part of Data Governance Network. The video titled, “Data is an extension of our body,” is one of the first in a series of four videos along with four well-researched papers on Body as Data and Data governance. Data is considered to be a resource in various data governance regimes in India, that can be exploited by Government and private players alike but, in reality, this data is so much a part of the body that generates it. Our research shows that the data is embodied and any harm manifested from this data is as real and tangible as any other physical harm.   More

    24 April

  • National Coalition urges Government to comply with privacy principles during COVID-19

    The Internet Democracy Project has provided extensive input in the joint letter written by SFLC to the Central and State Governments to protect individual privacy during COVID-19 Pandemic. The letter highlights excessive and unsupervised collection and usage of personal data of individuals for monitoring and surveillance that can cause irreversible harms to the privacy and bodily integrity of the individuals. The letter was signed by SFLC, the Internet Democracy Project and other non-profit organisations, civil society groups, lawyers, public policy professionals, social activists’ entrepreneurs and concerned citizens to flag the issues of individual privacy in the times of COVID-19 Pandemic. The full text of the letter can be found on the SFLC website as well as below.   More

    31 Mar 2020

  • NEW VIDEO: Trusting on the Internet - Remixed Proverbs

    “Don’t take icecream from a stranger.” Children from many parts of the world hear versions of this. Depending on the context, it can be a message honing trust, a message encouraging suspicion of people who are different from oneself, and so on. Whether or not we agree with these messages, one thing is certain: we have a lot of language that teaches us about trust: how to not trust too much, or too little. What does the equivalent on the Internet look like? We created a new video to help you answer this question.   More

    13 Sep 2019

  • Online Gods Podcast, featuring our work on Gendering Surveillance

    Listen to episode #15 of Online Gods podcast, on News Images and Surveillance, where Nayantara speaks to Ian M. Cook about the Internet Democracy Project’s work, specifically in regards to our research and workshops on gender and surveillance. About Online Gods: Online Gods is a monthly podcast on digital cultures and their political ramifications, featuring lively conversations with scholars and activists.   More

    22 Mar 2019

  • Internet Democracy Project joins global coalition that urges India to withdraw proposed amendments to Intermediary Guidelines

    The Internet Democracy Project has joined a global coalition of civil society and technology experts that sent a joint letter to the Indian Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology on 15 March, asking the Government of India to withdraw the draft amendments proposed to the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules. The coalition warns that the government’s proposed amendments on intermediary liability will harm digital security and human rights, and calls on the government to withdraw the proposed amendments and start a fresh consultation process. A press release can be found here. The full text of the letter can be found below.   More

    16 Mar 2019

  • Draft amendments to Intermediary Guidelines Rules raise serious concern for freedom of expression and privacy

    At the end of December 2018, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) of the Government of India invited stakeholders to provide their comments and suggestions on the Draft Intermediaries Guidelines (Amendment) Rules, 2018 by 31 January 2019. The Draft Rules seek to amend existing guidelines that lay out the conditions online intermediaries need to fulfil in order to qualify for safe-harbour protection. Unfortunately, many of the proposed amendments pose severe risks for freedom of expression and privacy on the Internet in India. The Internet Democracy Project has joined a coalition of organisations and concerned citizens in India in submitting a joint letter to MeitY that draws attention to these concerns. You can find the full text of the letter below.   More

    31 Jan 2019

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