Can privacy and smart phones come in the same sentence together? That itself is debatable.
Social media existed even before smart phones, but its usage was not too extensive as users could not post every minute or share photos of every happening of their lives as and when they were happening.
Ideally when the usage of smart phones increased in India around 7-8 years back, a privacy and data protection law was needed. Today every effort is going to be reactive and only an effort at trying to curb the privacy breaches facilitated by smart phones.
Cameras in the phone have made these handheld devices even more dangerous with spyware lurking in many emails, WhatsApp links, etc.
Children download gaming apps which track them and it has led to a rise in child kidnappings through this medium.
Apps are also known to stream your screen whereby your OTPS, messages and other sensitive data can be misused by cyber criminals. You may not have given anyone your OTP, but still you are a victim of a debit card or credit card fraud.
Vibhishan gave away Ravana in Mahabharata, and today smart devices are doing just the same thing, it's just that most people have not yet realised the seriousness of this issue.
We need to reduce sharing on social media, as data from these platforms is used to profile and target victims. Here are a few Do's and Don’t's.
How can we ensure privacy then? Don’t keep tagging your location. You are letting thieves and other criminals know your whereabouts. Don’t download apps from unknown sources. Don’t download apps without checking their reviews. Settings of your smart phones should not allow apps access to microphone, camera, photos, and location. If any app needs access, it should take permission each time and separate permission for accessing the above. Do not share photos which can attract negative attention. Avoid sharing data of your children or their photos. You surely don’t want your children to fall prey to paedophiles.
Cyber crimes have increased by 400 percent in the last few years as almost all physical crimes have become digital crimes now. Stalking is replaced by cyber stalking, Theft is replaced by credit, debit and wallet frauds, Defamation is replaced by cyber defamation.
In such a scenario, the laws have not kept pace with the crimes.
Is the legislature responsible for this?
Not really! When the Information Technology Act was enacted in 2000, the advent of smart devices had just started and it did broadly cover most offences. But where we went wrong is that, cyber space is dynamic unlike other fields of law, Cyber laws had to be amended time to time to ensure its relevance. In case of physical crimes, the Indian Penal Code has remained on a broad level very relevant even today because the definitions of theft, murder, kidnapping do not change and neither do the ingredients of the offence.
However, in case of cybercrimes, the definition of unauthorised access keeps broadening with time and new cybercrimes keep popping up which have different modus operandi and new ingredients to prove.
Also, the Information Technology Act laid down for the adjudicating officer to decide cases of unauthorised access, and apart from Maharashtra and a few other states, till date these courts are not functional and it will be 20 years now.
A strong Cyber Crime Act along with a Data Protection Act is the need of the hour.
Indian citizens should not be guinea pigs for data collection and profiling for so called data analytics and business intelligence.
As we demanded smart technology, we should also demand laws that govern and regulate smart technology for our own safety.
Puneet Bhasin is a cyber law and privacy law expert. She is the founder and president of Cyberjure Legal Consulting and Cyberjure Academy.