a technology & policy podcast by the Centre for Internet and Society, India

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Ep. 7: Can Human Rights Law check Mass Surveillance?

26 June 2020

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.

Reading List

Decision of the German Constitutional Court
Extraterritorial Algorithmic Surveillance and the Incapacitation of International Human Rights Law


Ep. 6: The CCTVisation of Delhi

12 June 2020

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.

Reading List

Capturing Gender and Class Inequities: The CCTVisation of Delhi


Ep. 5: Birds of a Rainbow Feather

29 May 2020

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.

Reading List

Gender and Sexuality of Data Subjects: A Survey of Identification Methods


Ep. 4: How India Censors the Web

15 May 2020

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.

Reading List

How India Censors The Web


Ep. 3: Digital Swarajya

24 April 2020

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.

Reading List

India’s Role in Global Cyber Policy Formulation
The Localisation Gambit
The Retreat of the Data Localization Brigade: India, Indonesia and Vietnam


Ep. 2: Radio Ga Ga

25 March 2020

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.

Reading List

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


Ep. 1: The Great Hack(er)

11 March 2020

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?

Reading List

Should the Jeff Bezos ‘phone hack’ be cause for alarm?
Improving the Processes for Disclosing Security Vulnerabilities to Government Entities in India