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All Posts | Dec 24,2019

Report Launch: The Future of Intermediary Liability in India

Report Launch: The Future of Intermediary Liability in India

SFLC.IN is releasing a report on Intermediary Liability titled “Future of Intermediary Liability in India” on January 17, 2020 at the India Islamic Cultural Center. The event will be inaugurated by Mr. Rajeev Gowda Hon'ble Member of Rajya Sabha, Parliament of India and followed by a panel discussion on "Controlling Intermediaries- Shrinking Safe Harbour, Dwindling Freedom"

A Brief Background

On December 24, 2018, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology issued the Draft Intermediary Guidelines (Amendments) Rules, 2018 (New Rules), to amend the Intermediary Liability Rules, 2011. The New Rules set out additional requirements such as use of automated filters, and traceability of messages, in order to avail the safe harbor protection for user-generated content under the Information Technology Act, 2000. While the changing landscape of the Internet warrants additional responsibility from intermediaries, the New Rules have raised several concerns pertaining to the flow of information and freedom of speech and expression of citizens in the online space.

SFLC.in been closely working on the developments in the Intermediary Liability space in India since 2010. In 2014, SFLC.IN published a report titled Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules,2011, which was launched in an event attended by Mr. Baijayant Panda (Former BJD MP), Mr. Jagdambika Pal (MP), Dr. Govind (Erstwhile, National Internet Exchange of India), Mr. Jayant Choudhary (General Secretary, Rashtriya Lok Dal), Dr. Arvind Gupta (Former Convener, IT Cell, BJP) and Mr. Faisal Farooqui (CEO, MouthShut.com). A follow up report titled “Intermediary Liability in India: A Shifting Paradigm” was published in March, 2019 by Mr. Gopalakrishnan (Joint Secretary, MeitY) and other industry representatives.

As the New Rules are expected to be notified in January 2020, SFLC.IN is publishing a third report discussing their impact on the intermediaries functioning in India on 17th of January, 2020 at the India Islamic Cultural Center (Conference Hall No. 1) between 5:00 pm to 7:30 pm

RSVP

To confirm your presence, RSVP Here

 

All Posts | Aug 25,2019

Internet Multi Stakeholder Roundtable discussion


Internet Multi Stakeholder Roundtable discussion


As a precursor to the formation of the IMSC, SFLC.in and Global Network Initiative(GNI) are organizing a round table discussion on - 'Data Protection' and 'Intermediary Liability' on the 28th of August, 2019 (Wednesday). The discussion will be attended by members of the multi-stakeholder community and representatives from GNI. We request interested members to consider this as a 'Save the Date' for the event and drop in a line of confirmation for your attendance.

Please confirm your attendance to Sundar on sundar@sflc.in

Here is the brief agenda for the round table discussion on Internet multi-stakeholder coalition.

 

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 | Sep 27,2017

Summary Report: Digital Citizen Summit, 2017 (September 21-22, 2017; New Delhi)

The second Digital Citizen Summit was organised on September 21-22, 2017 by Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) and Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom at India Habitat Centre, New Delhi. SFLC.in was an associate partner of the summit.

The summit aimed at finding solutions to bridge the digital divide, ways to ensure access to information, and creating a platform for participants to raise awareness about internet rights, digital literacy, and digital security. The sessions organised during the summit covered the broad themes of access, digital literacy and empowerment, privacy and freedom of expression.

We organised two sessions at the summit and participated as speakers in two others.

Sessions Organised:

  • Session on Internet Shutdowns (September 22nd, 12:00-13:00): This session was co-organised by Digital Empowerment Foundation and SFLC.in. The speakers for the session included Vaishali Verma (Counsel, SFLC.in), Ritu Srivastava (General Manager, Research and Advocacy, Digital Empowerment Foundation) and Sarath MS (Technologist, SFLC.in) with Prasanth Sugathan (Legal Director, SFLC.in) moderating the session.

     

    The session began with Sarath presenting the Internet shutdown tracker maintained by SFLC.in. Highlighting the steep rise in the number of shutdowns since 2012, he added that India has already witnessed 55 shutdowns in 2017, 1.7 times more than in 2016.

    Vaishali Verma began with emphasizing the need for Internet in the present era of digital India. Highlighting the three month long Internet ban in Darjeeling, she shared the experiences of the people including students, businessmen, and the locals, giving an insight into the problems faced by them due to the embargo. She further discussed the new rules for Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services in case of public emergency and public safety, issued by the Department of Telecommunications, and its shortcomings. Lastly, she underlined the economic losses faced by the country due to the Internet shutdowns.

    Ms. Ritu Srivastava dealt with the nature and psychological impact of Internet shutdowns. She gave several instances where Internet shutdowns had profound psychological impact on people of all ages. Finally, discussing about the transparency in the orders imposing shutdowns, Ritu criticised the lack of prior notifications from Internet Service Providers to the users before severing Internet services.

  • Session on Secure Communications (September 22nd, 14:00-15:00)This session was led by Sarath in association with Sukhbir Singh (TOR Developer) and focused on best practices to ensure privacy, security and anonymity in our online activities. Sarath discussed the prevalent state of surveillance in the country and its effect on the freedom of people. He further discussed various tools and applications for mobile phone that allow encrypted communications. He demonstrated one of these applications which provide for secure and encrypted text communications.

     

    Sukhbir elaborated upon the need for secure and private browsing in the surveillance-ridden world. He explained the principle behind the working of TOR browser and its advantages against other methods including VPNs.

Sessions Participated in:

  • Don’t let it stand: How do women deal with online abuse? Curbing the freedom of expression for women in digital spaces (September 21st, 12:00-13:00): This session was co-organised by Internet Democracy Project and Feminism in India. The session focused on the online abuse faced by women and marginalised community, its effect on people, gaps in the existing support systems- both legal and platform-based, and non-legal strategies to combat gender-based online harassment. SFLC.in was represented by Prasanth Sugathan and Vaishali Verma in this session.

     

     

  • Regulating search engines: Competition, free speech and human rights (September 22nd, 14:00-15:00): This session was organised by Centre for Communication Governance, National Law University, Delhi. The panel discussed the regulation of search engines, listing of search results, matters relating to competition amongst search engines in front of Competition Commission of India and the pending litigations in Supreme Court. Prasanth Sugathan from SFLC.in moderated this session.

All Posts | May 15,2017

Summary Report – Revisiting Aadhaar: Law, Tech and Beyond [May 9, 2017; New Delhi]

On 9th May, 2017, SFLC.in in association with IT for Change and Digital Empowerment Foundation, organized a panel discussion titled “Revisiting Aadhaar: Law, Tech and Beyond” at India International Centre, New Delhi. Saikat Datta, Policy Director, Centre for Internet and Society moderated the panel comprising Anivar Aravind, Founder/Director at Indic Project; Anupam Saraph, Professor and Future Designer; Prasanna S., Advocate; Shyam Divan, Senior Advocate, Supreme Court of India; Srinivas Kodali, Co-founder at Open Stats; Osama Manzar, Founder and Director, Digital Empowerment Foundation; Usha Ramanathan, Legal Researcher. The event was meant as a forum for stakeholders to discuss recent developments around Aadhaar and formulate community responses to the concerns therein.

The discussion started with a brief introduction by Mr. Prasanth Sugathan (Legal Director, SFLC.in) of SFLC.in’s work related to Aadhaar, covering among others, our catalogues of notifications making Aadhaar mandatory for various purposes, violations of the Supreme Court’s orders limiting the use of Aadhaar, and known breaches and leaks from the Aadhaar database. Mr. Saikat Datta on his opening remarks dealt with a number of interesting developments around the Aadhaar Project – such as the notification of the Aadhaar Act, Aadhaar enrolment being mandatory for availing various benefits and subsidies from the Government, and a series of incidents where individuals’ Aadhaar information was leaked from Government databases – and opened the panel for discussion.

Mr. Osama Manzar said that in the name of e-governance and automation, we have put all our data online. While this may be a great step towards digitization of data, he said it is exclusionary at the same time for anyone who lacks understanding of how technology works. Therefore, even though our focus is inclusion, we are effectively excluding people. We do not have the technological capacity and the capacity to realize that sometimes central databases do not match with biometrics and hence getting entitlements becomes difficult.

Mr. Anivar Aravind pointed out that Aadhaar is not an open source project, as none of the technological infrastructure that has been built by UIDAI so far is open for anyone to audit. The argument that Aadhaar must be saved in light of the significant financial investments already made into the project, does not hold up because Aadhaar is defective by design. Despite assurances that the Aadhaar project’s technical design has secured its database against leaks and breaches, a large number of data leaks have already been reported. Since Aadhaar is linked to centralized services such as Unified Payment Interface, Aadhaar Enabled Payment System, and Bharat Bill Payment System, these should be checked upon and regulated to protect consumer interests. Mr. Aravind said that today, the Government is asking us to trust them blindly without providing a system to audit the technical aspects of Aadhaar and the services linked to it.

Mr. Srinivas Kodali said he has been documenting issues around cyber security breaches and actively writing about them. He recalled an instance, where he had reported an early Aadhaar leak containing the information of 5-6 lakh children to the UIDAI and National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre, and suggested that they do a forensic investigation into the leak, only to have no action taken. Mr. Kodali said he has been working on the scale of actual impact of Aadhaar leaks and that there is ample evidence of data leaks from Government databases. According to him, the security of the Aadhaar system is poor and prone to hacking. He also pointed out that people who built the Aadhaar system, now no longer work for the UIDAI and instead run businesses on top of the Aadhaar framework, thus creating conflict of interest.

On being asked about the Supreme Court’s response to the petitions filed against Aadhaar, Mr. Shyam Divan said that there is no accountability within the Court when it comes to how the roster is assigned. He also said that the Chief Justice of India feels there are not enough judges to spare for the 9-judge Constitution Bench, which is to examine crucial questions of law related to the citizens’ right to privacy in connection with the petitions filed against Aadhaar. Therefore, we are stuck in a difficult position and can only hope for interim relief. Mr. Divan pointed out that the judiciary needs to make its stance clear on the following issues: 1) Who does the body belong to? 2) Issues related to limited governance. 3) Right to Privacy. He added that Aadhaar is an untested technology and an instrument of oppression and exclusion. Even in the hypothetical absence of the Constitution of India, each one of us still has fundamental rights merely by virtue of being human, and these rights cannot be taken away by a project like Aadhaar.

Mr. Anupam Saraph said that the design flaws in Aadhaar start at the assumption that it is a database that identifies millions, which is false. There is no authority to certify proof of identity and address in Aadhaar. Unlike passport, driving license, ration card and other identification documents, there is no verification of Aadhaar details, except by private entities that we have no knowledge of. Also, registrars have the power to retain our data. There is no mechanism within the Aadhaar database to distinguish between citizens-non-citizens, terrorists and innocent citizens. He compared Aadhaar to acquiring AIDS; because it attacks its own citizens by lacking the ability to differentiate between aliens and non-aliens and denying individuals their rights and benefits. Further, he pointed out that recently, a minister admitted that 34,000 Aadhaar enrolment agencies had been blacklisted for indulging in malpractices. On an average, the data shows that thirty thousand enrolments are done by one enrolling agency. On multiplying thirty thousand by thirty four thousand, we get 1.2 billion which is almost the entire database. Therefore an audit is imperative to verify all the data held in the Aadhaar database. Mr. Saraph also mentioned that since the data collected by these rogue agencies is questionable, Aadhaar is a huge threat to national security and should have been shut down long ago. He suggested that we should take a leaf out of the British Parliament that repealed the Identity Cards Act, 2006 and the National identity Register that contained the biometrics and personal details of millions of card holders was publicly destroyed. Mr. Saraph said that we need to pass a legislation that debars Aadhaar in the interest of national security.

Mr. Prasanna S, pointed out that the Government has been coming up with contradictory narratives in an attempt to challenge the maintainability of the petitions filed against Aadhaar. Initially, when the project was challenged, they argued that the petitions were delayed and suffer from latches, but on the other hand, they also said that the petitions were premature as the Parliament had not passed the Bill then. They say Aadhaar is both voluntary and mandatory. On being questioned about authentication failure and leaks, the Government says these are teething problems, while they defend the project saying it is a fait accompli. He also elaborated on the new projects that are being built with Aadhaar as its foundation. Terming Aadhaar an evidence-collecting mechanism rather than a unique identity scheme, Mr. Prasanna said the project has been a systematic attack on consent since its inception. He highlighted that irrespective of whether we value consent or not, there are rights that need to be protected by the State. Quoting the jurist and philosopher Ronal Dworkin, he said rights give the law a claim to respect, and that without rights, law is just brutality.

Dr. Usha Ramanathan explained that Aadhaar is an “identification” project and not a “unique identity” project. It was brought into the Government by the private sector, therefore there are private ambitions floating out of it, so the government is satisfying a double-agenda. She said that the meaning of rights and restrictions have interchanged in these times. Over the years, restrictions have become more fundamental and the Government is shifting from rights to a governance framework. She was also of the view that individuals need to care more about the Aadhaar project and the manner in which it is being implemented. She highlighted the importance of civil disobedience and the need to learn a common humanity. She emphasized that blind obedience is the worst thing in a democracy – people should be encouraged to interrogate and question. She said that freedom cannot be compartmentalized, and that we need to take responsibility for everyone.

A number of interesting questions were asked and remarks were made by the audience, a notable few of which were:

  • Can Aadhaar enable the government to track down activists? Mr. Srinivas Kodali answered that while the Aadhaar system is certainly capable of being used to profile individuals, he doesn’t believe the UIDAI is actively doing so. However, the large scale collection personal information by private players for Aadhaar authentication etc. is still cause for concern, he said. Dr. Ramanathan added that with Aadhaar’s linkage to all kinds of essential activities and services, and with the Government reserving the right to disable Aadhaar cards, it is very easy for the Government to target activists and other dissenting voices through Aadhaar, should they wish to do so.

  • A petition has been filed in the Supreme Court challenging the money bill aspect of the Aadhaar Act. Will the court ever look into it? Mr. Shyam Divan answered that any reasonable person who looks at the Aadhaar Act will know its not a money bill. He said that he is hopeful the court will look into this aspect and not hide behind the argument that the Lok Sabha speaker’s call is final. It is the judiciary that is the final authority on this. Mr. Divan also remarked that the Aadhaar project is an architecture for hundred percent mass surveillance over the lifetime of Indian citizens. It is going to affect peoples’ political and social choices, and must therefore be challenged.

  • Is there any way to deactivate / cancel an Aadhaar number? To this, Mr. Prasanna suggested that Section 23 of the Aadhaar Act, which empowers the UIDAI to omit/deactivate Aadhaar numbers, may be invoked to request the UIDAI to deactivate an Aadhaar number. He made it clear however, that Section 23 merely reserves this broad power for the UIDAI and in no way creates an obligation to honor such requests.

  • The judiciary is unable to contain the massive violation of interim orders and the manner in which the project is being implemented. What does the common citizen do? Mr. Divan answered that we have to be optimistic and keep fighting – we must not give up hope. Mr. Anupam Saraph mentioned that if the court does not give a favourable judgment, then individuals have to start interpreting what civil disobedience means to them.

All Posts | Apr 17,2017

Public Discussion – Access Denied: Internet Shutdowns in a Digital India [April 24, 2017; New Delhi]

SFLC.in, in association with the Digital Empowerment Foundation, IT for Change, Internet Democracy Project, Centre for Internet and Society, and Foundation for Media Professionals, is organizing a public discussion titled “Access Denied: Internet Shutdowns in a Digital India” on Monday, April 24, 2017 at Hauz Khas Social, 9A & 12, Hauz Khas Village, New Delhi. This event will bring together a group of `key stakeholders to discuss the increasingly frequent Internet access disruptions that are imposed by states across India. The discussion will be followed by networking dinner and drinks.

Our Internet Shutdown Tracker has recorded at least 69 separate instances of “Internet shutdowns” across 13 Indian states since 2012, where residents of particular localities were disconnected from the Internet for extended periods of time upon state orders, usually in the stated interest of preventing rumor-driven escalations of prevailing or anticipated conflicts. Besides curtailing fundamental human rights such as the right to free speech and expression, Internet shutdowns disable a range of essential activities that rely on the Internet, such as e-commerce, e-governance, e-health and e-learning.

A 2016 study by the Center for Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institute had revealed that India suffered an estimated loss of $968 million during 2015-16 due to Internet shutdowns – the highest figure globally. Internet shutdowns have also been unequivocally condemned by the United Nations through a 2016 Human Rights Council resolution that called upon member states to refrain from such measures. Internet shutdowns assume even greater significance in a country like India, where the Government has been funneling vast resources towards digitization through initiatives like the Digital India program, Aadhaar, and cashless transactions post-demonetization.

Against this backdrop, we hope to hear from key stakeholders about Internet shutdowns as a policy practice, and facilitate a conversation around the idea behind shutdowns, the ground-level implications of frequent access disruptions, and possible solutions to the problem that balance security interests of the state with the need for sustained Internet connectivity. This event will serve as a platform for representatives from the Government, Industry, civil society, and user communities among others to come together to discuss this important issue. If you are interested in participating in this event, please send a line of confirmation to mamta@sflc.in by Friday, April 21, 2017.