a technology & policy podcast by the Centre for Internet and Society, India
Where must we locate our right to privacy in times of a crisis? How much information about ourselves do we give up? Is spying on a neighbour justified in an attempt to contain the spread of a disease? In our ongoing conversations dealing with various aspects of surveillance, Shweta Reddy and Mira Swaminathan speak to Torsha Sarkar about the topical issue of balancing a public health objective with protection of our fundamental rights. They offer various privacy principles and ethical considerations that any initiative trying to institutionalize surveillance must take into account, with the goal of ensuring that short term solutions do not become the long term features of an organized society.
On May 19th, a few weeks after we recorded this episode, the German supreme court held that extra-territorial mass surveillance on foreigners is unconstitutional. This was a massive victory, particularly for global south citizens who have unwittingly been the target of illegal western mass surveillance for years. Human rights law has glaringly been unable to prevent this abuse of global power, particularly by the US. In this episode, Torsha Sarkar speaks to Arindrajit Basu about the reasons behind this incapacitation of international human rights law, and what we can do to fix it.
Cities around the world are increasingly adopting closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras for surveillance. In this episode, Aayush Rathi and Ambika Tandon discuss their research on the deployment of CCTVs in New Delhi, a city infamous for high rates of violent crimes against women. Using critical feminist studies, they investigate the narrative that greater surveillance equals increased security for women. Through interviews with women, police personnel, and government officials, they uncover the contradictory motivations and objectives of the program, and how its impact is mediated along the axes of gender, geography, and class.
With the proliferation of social media and digital platforms, user data has grown exponentially accompanied by a growing recognition of the uses of such large data sets. While demographic inference from big data sources is emerging as a significant use case of big data systems, the detection of a person’s gender and/or sexuality is often viewed as a key and foundational component, that is also uniquely problematic. This episode accompanies a survey that was undertaken to provide an approachable overview of the various methods researchers and other actors are using to infer gender and sexuality from large data sets, and explores the numerous problems and curiosities present in these methods.
Web censorship in India marks a fundamental threat to the freedom of speech and expression online. Despite the dubious nature of their constitutionality, various modes of censorship continue to operate across various parts of the country to limit the dissemination of content and stifle access to content that users seek. Excellent scholarship and activism has highlighted the legal and societal implications of this censorship. The technicalities, however, have largely remained unclear and opaque. Gurshabad Grover’s recent paper, written with Kushagra Singh and Varun Bansal attempts to change this.
The past year has seen vigorous activity on the domestic cyber policy front in India. On key issues, including intermediary liability, data localization and e-commerce, the government has rolled out a patchwork of regulatory policies, resulting in battle lines being drawn by governments, industry and civil society actors, both in India, and abroad. Among emerging economies, India is uniquely positioned to exercise leverage over multinational tech companies due to its sheer population size, combined with a rapid surge in users coming online and the country’s large gross domestic product. India could, and possibly should be doing more on the global front. Torsha Sarkar and Pranav MB are in conversation this week with Arindrajit Basu to find out how.
Ever wondered why you never get to listen to news or current affairs on FM channels? The government of India, for the last two decades, has persistently refused to allow community and private FM channels from broadcasting news and current affairs. In this episode of In Flux, Torsha Sarkar and Gurshabad Grover discuss their work on this news broadcast ban, and go on to speak about the constitutional ethos of media freedom and free speech, and propose an alternative regulatory framework to govern speech on FM channels.
Examining the Constitutionality of the Ban on Broadcast of News by Private FM and Community Radio Stations
RTI Application to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting on Content Code Violations by Radio Stations
On the first episode of In Flux, we are joined by CIS veteran Karan Saini who talks us through his work as a security researcher. We then discuss the policy avenues for the government to engage more closely with security researchers to create a robust framework for disclosure and exploitation of vulnerabilities. How is a hacker different from a security researcher? What is the nature of offensive operations being undertaken by the government? How did Jeff Bezos’s phone get hacked, and should we be scared?