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Privacy upheld by SC but its future is dicey

Our online footprints are increasingly making it harder for us to live a private life


The Supreme Court ruled out that citizens have a right to privacy, which is intrinsic and fundamental to dignified human existence. The court gave an illustrative example as to what privacy means. It said privacy includes at its core the preservation of personal intimacies, the sanctity of family life, marriage, procreation, the home and sexual orientation. By doing so, the court has affirmed an unwritten and ambiguous right of the Indian constitution, but an internationally recognised right as a fundamental human right.

The ruling on the highly contentious issue was to deal with a batch of petitions challenging the Centre's move to make Aadhaar mandatory for availing the benefits of various social welfare schemes. Petitioners say that enforcing the use of Aadhaar is an infringement of privacy.

This judgment has not only crystallised an amorphous idea but it has also reopened a debate on many contentious issues that have been decided in the past. For instance, the case of rights of the LGBT community; a progressive society must be liberal enough to accept that sexual orientation of an individual is a matter of privacy. Similarly, the cases of abortion and willful termination of one’s life should witness renewed discussions.

The apex court rightly pointed out in its verdict that ‘life and personal liberty are not creations of the Constitution. These rights are recognised by the Constitution as inhering in each individual as an intrinsic and inseparable part of the human element which dwells within.’

In a world that is increasingly becoming tech driven with artificial intelligence, big data and robotics, often referred to as the next generation, digital disruption poses a serious challenge to individuals and their privacy as well. Data feeds the development of artificial intelligence and other new technologies. By being more careful about the production of our private data online, we can minimize the risk of unwanted exposure.

The government can help us in this regard by implementing stringent data protection rules and regulations. This would give us more control over our data and would reduce the risk of data misuse. In addition, we need to ensure that “our data” only be used for the purpose for which it is collected.

There is no denying the fact that there is no completely private space available to us, anymore. Most of the things we do get registered as data somewhere. Personal data is the raw material for the knowledge economy and the capture of such data lies at the heart of the business models of the most successful technology firms.

So, future is risky and keeping things private will be a challenge. In such perilous times, it’s better to reduce your online footprint especially when it comes down to showcasing your personal life.

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Privacy upheld by SC but its future is dicey

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