The Ladies Finger 1 Mar 2017

Who rules the Internet? A new website tells us why women should think about surveillance 

by Maya Palit

A new website called ‘Gendering Surveillance’ brings you research, case studies, and articles on gendered aspects of internet surveillance. It has been put together by the Internet Democracy Project (an offshoot of the organisation Point of View) examines how the advent of the internet and techonologies have been altering the structures of democracy in myriad ways.

Some of the issues the website has already covered are online violence against women, and pro-surveillance arguments linking increased surveillance to development. Another is the right to privacy. Two years ago, in the aftermath of debates about the legitimacy Aadhaar card, the government of India put forward an overt challenge to the notion of privacy by declaring to the Supreme Court of India that privacy was not a fundamental right. The moment at which this challenge comes is crucial to note, says the introduction to the website, which goes on to argue that “…in the digital age, in the age of Aadhaar and Digital India, of Facebook and Uber and Google, the right to privacy – or its absence – matter like never before”.

Should the exponential increase in CCTV cameras in Delhi, promoted as a greatly effective scheme for increasing women’s safety, be applauded? How effective are they in deterring crimes against women? Likewise, would it be wise to scrutinise carefully the proliferation of new apps promoting women’s safety? These are some of the questions that ‘Gendering Surveillance’ takes up and mulls over in its website, besides fieldwork exploring recent occurrences like the the ban on mobile phones for women by certain khap panchayats across North India. So while we look forward to more musings from the researchers (Dr. Anja Kovacs and Nayantara Ranganathan) involved in the project, the articles already up on its website provide a fascinating glimpse into how security devices, new technology, and the Internet are all contributing to an age of increased surveillance, which affects women around the country in different ways.

Originally published in The Ladies Finger.