Don’t let the data privacy bill fool you – it’s designed to take a lot more than it gives. The current bill sitting before the Indian government can have widespread consequences if passed. Rather than promoting privacy rights for Indian internet users, this bill pledges to hand over anything and anything civilians do online directly to the government.
The Misleading Bill
India’s Information Technology Minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad, recently presented the Personal Data Protection Bill to parliament. The proposals are currently being studied by parliament, who will have the ability to modify or amend them before bringing them up for a vote in early 2020.
Originally, the bill was designed to limit what kind of information companies can store. It bars companies from hanging onto certain types of sensitive data, like information regarding a user’s health or finances, as well as their biometric data like thumbprints that can be used to unlock smart devices. These are all steps in the right direction, but a worrying amount of information is still up for grabs.
According to Justice BN Srikrishna who sat in for the initial drafting of the bill, most of its safeguards were removed. The protective measures stripped from the bill leave a wealth of sensitive information vulnerable. Some things, including comprehensive internet history information, remain largely unsecured.
What The Government Can See
The bill includes elements designed as safeguards that function more like false reassurances that the government has given themselves complete freedom to bypass. It makes sense for the government to write in ways for them to circumvent their own restrictions in the event of a national security emergency, such as a cyberattack. The current draft of the bill diminishes these special circumstances to mere whims. The Indian government has essentially given themselves complete freedom to access this sensitive information at any time.
“That is most dangerous. The government can at any time access private data or government agency data on grounds of sovereignty or public order. This has dangerous implications,” Justice VN Srikrishna says of the current iteration of the bill. Spokespeople for tech related companies like Mozilla have also been vocal of their opposition to the bill as it stands.
Opposing political parties in India have not minced words regarding their positions on the bill, namely due to the lack of oversight and the implications that lack of oversight may have towards abuse of power. Noteworthy figures, such as Justice BN Srikrishna himself, have offered to help redraft the bill to include more provisions and stronger language designed to protect citizens from the long arm of an invasive government while they browse the internet.
The future of the bill and what’s to come remain largely up in the air. No major changes have transpired that would favor the privacy and rights of citizens online. Internet users in India cannot expect that their government will allow them to utilize the resource in peace, putting the responsibility of internet privacy back into the hands of citizens. If the government will not respect people’s privacy, people must fortify their own security and enact measures to grant themselves anonymity.
Protecting Yourself With a VPN
It seems to be that the only privacy option internet users in India have is to begin using VPN services. A VPN will shield traffic and browsing history from a nosy government and help to make the exchange of sensitive information (like credit card information for online purchases) completely secure.
VPN use will also help Indian internet users to bypass censorship and freely access streaming content from anywhere. Everything the government has done to restrict news and content availability for Indian citizens is effectively rendered useless when the internet is accessed through a VPN. The people of India should begin using VPNs immediately – even tomorrow may be a day too late.
TorGuard VPN offers thousands of servers all over the world and unlimited bandwidth. People in India can use TorGuard to keep their data private while browsing anonymously online. TorGuard offers stealth connection options that will allow users to hide their VPN use from the government. Should the government decide to outlaw VPN use, they would never be able to detect this stealth connection. Never let the government tell you what information you should and should not have access to – enjoy freedom of information without the fear of consequences.