Friday, November 25, 2011

Yahoo Took Indian Government To Court Over E-Surveillance

E-surveillance in India has become a big nuisance for intermediaries like internet service providers (ISPs), e-commerce sites, search engines, e-mail providers, etc. The liability of Internet intermediaries for copyright violations is also well known that has further increased the troubles of intermediaries in India.

Intermediaries liability for cyber law due diligence in India has become very stringent after the information technology amendment act 2008 has been notified. Information technology act 2000 (IT Act 2000) now carries many e-surveillance, websites blocking and Internet censorship provisions.

The problem is that there are “no procedural safeguards” subject to which these wide and sweeping powers can be exercised. This is also the reason why these provisions are unconstitutional and illegal as they are violating the provisions of Indian constitution.

However, in the larger interests of their commercial activites in India, these intermediaries not only accepted the draconian amendments in the cyber law of India but they are also complying with the legal as well as illegal orders of Indian government and its agencies. However, this approach would be counter productive for them in the long run and they must come forward against such laws and draconian provisions.

Yahoo has taken a very significant step in this regard. Yahoo has approached the Delhi High Court against the Union home ministry's attempts to obtain information about nearly a dozen Yahoo IDs/IP addresses it suspects are used by Islamic terrorists and Maoists.

Yahoo has challenged the legality of the government's decision to penalise it by slapping it with a fine of Rs 11 lakh because Yahoo refused to share profile details of the users of these email ID's that are under the scanner of the agencies. Recently, the HC stayed the imposition of the fine, and sought a response from the Centre.

In its petition, Yahoo has raised questions on the right to privacy of a company that stores such sensitive data and to what extent authorities can coerce it to part with the information considered necessary to either track terror perpetrators or thwart future attacks. "The government cannot under the cloak of national security implications bypass legal procedures," the petitioner has argued, claiming the section and clauses invoked by the Union ministry to demand information from Yahoo doesn't empower the government to do so.

Yahoo has taken a bold step that even companies like Google have not been able to do so. The matter is pending before the Delhi high court that has a good chance to bring some order in the otherwise chaosed e-surveillance world of India. The issue of phone tapping and privacy violations in India is also pending before the Supreme Court of India.

The matter must also be looked from another angle. Human rights protections in cyberspace in India are not safeguarded at all. Even at the international level United Nations has not shown much interest in protecting civil liberties in cyberspace. The data privacy laws in India are also missing. In short, there is complete negation of human rights in cyberspace in the Indian context.

Yahoo’s case may bring to the knowledge of Indian courts this situation and we may expect some respect for the constitutional rights and freedoms that are seldom respected in India these days.