Defender of your Digital Freedom

All Posts | Nov 21,2019

Letter To The Standing Committee on Information Technology

Recommendations to The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology for Surveillance Reforms in lieu of WhatsApp-NSO Revelations

Recommendations sent to Dr. Shashi Tharoor, Chairperson to The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology before the meeting with representatives of Home Ministry, The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), and The Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) to discuss WhatsApp-Pegasus Surveillance revelations. SFLC.IN also issued its Statement on the WhatsApp Surveillance Issue

To support our work on fighting for privacy and security online, you may donate to us at - https://sflc.in/donate.

All Posts | Apr 12,2019

A ‘Digital Rights Reform Agenda’ for India – What Have Political Parties Missed Out this Election Season?

Yesterday, India entered 7-phases of national elections spanning a little over a month. This election season, we bring to you a ‘Digital Rights Reform Agenda’ which is missing from most political parties’ promises and manifestos. We believe that these topics should be on the agenda list of all political outfits in India claiming a stake on parliament seats. A list of key digital rights issues worthy of political importance are (more…)

All Posts | Apr 04,2019

A Look at Party Manifestos for the 17th Lok Sabha Elections- Will Political Parties Defend Our Digital Freedom?

The 7-phase, 17th Lok Sabha elections will begin on April 11, 2019 and continue until May 19, 2019. Five major national parties – Indian National Congress, Bharatiya Janta Party, Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of India and All India Trinamool Congress have released their manifestos[fn]CPI (M) Election Manifesto, https://cpim.org/pressbriefs/cpim-election-manifesto-17th-lok-sabha;

CPI Election Manifesto, https://www.communistparty.in/blog/election-manifesto-of-the-communist-party-of-india-for-the-17th-lok-sabha-elections-2019;

TMC Election Manifesto, http://aitcofficial.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/TMC-MANIFESTO-Eng.pdf;

INC Election Manifesto, https://manifesto.inc.in/en/index.html

BJP Election Manifesto, http://www.documentcloud.org/documents/5798075-Bjp-Election-2019-Manifesto-English.html[/fn], outlining party priorities and future course of action the parties promise to take if voted to power. At of the time of publication of this post, Aam Aadmi Party has not released its manifesto. We will update this blog as and when it is published. Acknowledging the indispensable role of digital technology in society and its capacity to impact our human rights, most party manifestos have touched upon digital rights.

We studied these manifestos and have captured promises made by these five national parties on digital rights. Kindly refer to the following table for a comparison:

All Posts | Feb 01,2019

Joint Letter to MeitY Addressing Key Issues with the Draft IL Rules, 2018

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India ("MeitY"), released the Draft Intermediaries Guidelines (Amendment) Rules, 2018 on the 24th of December, 2018 ("the Draft Rules"). The Draft Rules seek to amend the existing Intermediaries Guidelines, which enlist certain conditions for online intermediaries to follow in order to qualify for the safe-harbour protection offered to them under Section 79 of the Information Technology Act, 2000. MeitY had requested relevant stakeholders to provide their comments/ suggestions by the 31st of January, 2019 on the Draft Rules.

We have submitted a joint letter to Shri Ajay Prakash Sawhney, Secretary, MeitY, highlighting key provisions of the Draft Rules which impact basic human rights such as free speech and privacy. The joint letter has been signed by various civil society organizations, free software associations, public spirited academicians and professionals.

We have also submitted our detailed comments to the Ministry stating our concerns with the Draft Rules. Our detailed comments will be available on this website soon.

We endeavour to regularly consult with concerned government departments on proposals which adversely affect citizen's digital rights.

We thank all the signatories for extending their support and standing for digital rights.

A copy of the joint letter is as follows:

All Posts | Jan 03,2018

SFLC.in at Swatantra ’17

Dates: 20 and 21 December 2017
Venue: Mascot Hotel, Trivandrum, Kerala, India
People in attendance: ~400

Panel Discussion

SFLC.in was a part of the closing session titled “Software Freedom – Challenges Ahead”. Panelists included:

  1. Prasanth Sugathan, Legal Director, SFLC.in
  2. Praveen Arimbrathodiyil, Pirate Party of India
  3. Benjamin Maco Hill, Assistant Professor in Communication, University of Washington
  4. Abhas Abhinav, Founder, DeepRoot Linux
  5. Juan Carlos Gentile, Founder & President , Hipatia.

The panel was moderated by Arun M, Programme Head, ICFOSS.

Prasanth Sugathan mentioned that the free software community forms the basis of the entire Internet freedom movement. He spoke about the need to have an ability to tinker with our devices and the effects of losing such a freedom. He mentioned that recent times have seen a gradual shift from the use of copyleft licences to permissive licences - including the harmful effect that this has on the free software movement, and the adoption of proprietary solutions by the government despite a national policy on preferring open source solutions. He also announced SFLC.in's upcoming Women In Tech project to ensure increased participation of women in technology-related fields.

SFLC.in’s Booth

Approximately 250 people visited our booth at the conference. We talked to the conference attendees about digital rights including rights of FOSS projects, our free legal support for FOSS projects, how FOSS projects can protect themselves, software patents, and our other projects to protect and promote internet freedoms and digital rights including internet shutdowns, net neutrality, freedom of speech and cyber security.

We conducted two quiz competitions in which about 40 students participated. We also conducted two raffles for students in which about 70-80 people participated. Prizes for the raffles and quiz competitions included a set of SFLC.in goodies for the winners.

23 people became digital defenders by joining SFLC.in.

All Posts | Nov 13,2017

Round Table: “Right to Privacy: What now?” on 16th November 2017

The Supreme Court's recognition of privacy as a fundamental right is the beginning of a new era in Indian constitutional jurisprudence. The SC's unanimous judgment in this regard (K.S.Puttaswamy vs Union of India) will usher in a period of great technical and legal creativity. Also considering that IT-based service industries are core components of any Digital India economic strategy, privacy considerations are bound to manifest in a big way in our developmental road-map.

Against this backdrop, we are organizing a Round Table discussion titled "Right to Privacy: What now?" with Ananta Aspen Centre on 16th November 2017 from 02:00 pm to 05:00 pm at the Deputy Chairman’s Hall, Constitution Club, Rafi Marg, New Delhi. This would be a closed-door brainstorming session (Chatham House Rule) chaired by Mr. Baijayant Panda (Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha), focusing on policies and frameworks for inclusivity, sustainable development, security, safety and freedom, technology and partnerships for upholding digital democracy, maximizing collaboration for strengthening security and safety and advocating dialogue diplomacy.

Other speakers from the select group of 20-25 would be from diverse fields including Industry and its associations, civil society, government and think-tanks who would deliberate on contentious issues, opportunities and challenges faced in the cyber world to pave the way for a better digital future.

This event is by invitation only. To register, please drop us a line at mamta@sflc.in.

All Posts | Dec 11,2015

Workshop on ‘What are people’s rights in the digital world?’

'What are people's rights in the digital world? - Moving towards a digital social contract' (Bengaluru, 4-5 December, 2015)

SFLC.in participated in a 2 day workshop organized by IT for Change in Bengaluru on the theme of the changing nature of human rights in the digital age. This involved understanding digital rights from a lens beyond that of civil and political rights and to include the social and economic rights in its purview as well. The participants were a mix of digital rights activist and academicians, along with a wide range of stakeholders from the social sector, representing women rights, tribal issues, environment concerns, the Government's MNREGA, and literacy schemes. The aim of the workshop was to design a set of working principles for rights that should be protected and demanded in a digital world with insights from the social sector.

The first day was divided into two panel discussions to set the context of the workshop, followed by splitting into 5 groups to cover separate themes. The panels were on the topics; "Traditional human rights actors present how rights consciousness and articulation developed in different areas", and "What is the digital doing to our world". The panels brought out a wide range of thought provoking perspectives, including those from feminist ideologies, personal experiences about the implications of Aadhaar, views on openness of data, developments in legal jurisprudence, including the right to information movement, food security and other welfare statutes. The panelists even pondered on the questions of balance and control over the present involvement of data in everyday lives and the increasing dependence and convenience because of it. The second part of the day was marked for group discussions on the themes of- data & privacy, access & connectivity, Internet intermediaries & platforms, freedom of expression & association, and softwarization of things. The idea was to refresh the traditional struggles and ideologies of human rights and import that in a world surrounded by digitization. An approximate of 30 participants came up with a draft of certain principles under all the 5 themes that was deliberated in the collective group as the last exercise for the day.

The second day was reserved for a fresh look at the draft principles and a finer drafting, following which there was a concluding session on the suggestions for the ways and forums of taking the discussion forward. Some of the recommendations included formation of a loose coalition for strengthening the voice of the community and ensuring representation in government talks and other policy initiatives. Along with the coalition, a long term idea was that of working on a comprehensive status report of India's digitization that would cover all the states, their infrastructure level, the literacy & awareness among the population and track the implementation of digital initiatives by the State and otherwise. There was an opinion about having an Internet Social Forum next year that would have a social welfare segment along with working on the legal front with formation of principles for the digital rights of Indian citizens.

A working draft of the preliminary principles compiled under each theme at the workshop is as follows:

1. Access & Connectivity

  • Equal access for all

  • Public provisions should not violate net neutrality.

  • W3C standards for the visually impaired.

  • Assurance of quality of connectivity + Platforms that meet special needs
  • Rights and entitlements are hinged to older rights and do not emerge from a vacuum. Equal access must ensure furtherance of these rights and entitlements. (e-government transition issues)

2. Freedom of Expression & Association

  • The Internet must be maintained as a safe public space without censorship of content by platforms/intermediaries or state but subject to reasonable restrictions.

  • Right to resort to traditional means of collective bargaining on digital platforms

  • Right to use the Internet to organise peaceful assemblies and engage in online protest.

  • Right to access, receive, and disseminate information freely, without censorship of content, or measures designed to intimidate/limit online expression, except reasonable restrictions in accordance with law

  • Freedom from algorithmic/mass filtering and blocking of content by platforms/intermediaries

  • The plurality and diversity of online media should be respected and protected.
  • The right of citizens to access and receive news related information free of pervasive commercial interest.

3. Data Protection & Privacy

  • Need an institutionalised structure to set standards for data generation and use.

  • A data commission on the lines of the various surveys needs to be set up- standards should be commensurate with Constitutional principles.

  • Private sectors dealing in, generating or using public data need to be mandated to share the data with the data commons bank Uber maps cities of India; this is public data gathered by an agency, government needs to add this data to the commons.

  • Public advocacy to build understanding and support for the notion of "data commons"

  • Empower communities/local self governments to collect and use their own data

  • "Data literacy mission" to train a corps of grassroots data officers

  • Formation of a suitably empowered agency that will supervise data collection, use, re-use, storage, deletion and interlinking relating to personal data. Big data needs interlinking, implying that it is possible to track you back through the meta data of more than one data set
  • A set of vigilance principles needs to be formulated and the agency be empowered to take punitive action for violation of the principles –Body should proceed with interlinking through a court permission.

4. Intermediaries & Platforms

  • Non-discriminatory access (ensure net neutrality), transparency of algorithms or at least public interest transparency using escrows like disclosing of contents for food and medicine in the public interest.

  • Platforms cannot be allowed for private policing. Clear rules needs to be laid out by an appropriate body. Regular consultations and public hearings needs to be done.

  • Internet exchange points: Local termination of local data needs to be enforced.
  • A public movement with bottom-up approach, develop a people friendly digital jurisprudence.

5. Softwarization of Things

  • Right to access software, right to create using any tools and formats and platforms that are available (digital mobility), right to modify, right to share

  • In case of embedded software, right to opt out.

  • Right to know what I am using, right to configure what I am using we see this right being taken away.
  • Right not to be locked in, no part of the device should be restricted.