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All Posts | Jan 10,2020

Statement about SC judgment on Internet Shutdown in Kashmir

Statement about SC judgment on Internet Shutdown in Kashmir

SFLC.in welcomes the judgment pronounced today by the Supreme Court in Anuradha Bhasin v Union Of India(W.P(C) no. 1031 of 2019) wherein the Court has directed that shutdown orders must adhere to the principle of proportionality and must be temporary in nature. SFLC.in maintains the only internet shutdown tracker in India and has been trying to raise awareness among citizens in general and policymakers in particular about the need to prevent Internet shutdowns. In the present age, Internet is a medium that is necessary for citizens to meaningfully exercise their fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression, right to education and right to life. SFLC.in has always argued for considering right to internet access as a fundamental right and the High Court of Kerala had upheld this contention in Faheema Shirin v State of Kerala(WP(C) 19716/2019) while holding that right to access internet is a part of right to education and right to privacy. The Supreme Court has recognised that the right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a), and the right to carry on any trade or business under 19(1)(g), using the medium of internet is constitutionally protected. This declaration would make it easier to challenge shutdown orders in future. The Court also emphasised on the need for transparency and has mandated that shutdown orders need to be published. The biggest obstacle in challenging shutdown orders in the past was the lack of transparency. Most of the applications under the RTI Act filed by SFLC.in for obtaining shutdown orders were rejected citing national security as a reason. Publishing shutdown orders could enable citizens to approach High Courts to challenge these orders. The direction to have reviews of suspension orders every 7 days could place a check on long shutdowns. However, the fact that the review committee is also composed of members exclusively from the executive could make this a futile exercise. Although the judgment has not given any immediate relief to the people in Kashmir affected by the shutdown, we hope that the Internet blockade in Kashmir will be lifted at the earliest based on the law laid down in the judgment.

All Posts | Apr 01,2019

Our Comments to DPIIT on the Draft National E-commerce Policy

On 23rd February, 2019, the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (“the DPIIT”) released the Draft National E-Commerce Policy (“the Draft Policy”) with the objective to help stakeholders fully benefit from opportunities arising from the progressive digitization of the domestic digital economy and establish a level playing field for all stakeholders in the digital economy.

Though, titled as the ‘National E-Commerce Policy’ the document addresses a wide range of subjects, such as data protection and ownership, cross-border data flow, foreign investment, tax, competition issues, intellectual property and intermediary liability, among other things. These issues affect a number of stakeholders and industries in addition to e-commerce websites and their consumers.

Our comments, inter alia, address issues with the Draft Policy like - jurisdiction of the DPIIT, data ownership and sovereignty, data localisation, intermediary liability and law enforcement access to data. Our detailed comments are as follows:

All Posts | Nov 18,2017

Key Stakeholders Raise Questions About Right to Privacy in India

New Delhi, November 16th, 2017: Several law and technology experts along with representatives from civil society, industry and other stakeholder groups discussed a number of legal and technological issues related to the right to privacy in India at a round table discussion titled “Right to Privacy: What now?” convened by SFLC.in and Ananta Aspen Centre yesterday at the Constitution Club of India, New Delhi. Baijayant Jay Panda, Member of Parliament & Trustee, Ananta Centre, chaired the discussion.

This closed-door discussion held under the Chatham House rule covered the key tenets and principles to be included in a legal framework that guarantees the right to privacy to people of India. Baijayant Panda had tabled a Private Member’s Bill on privacy and data protection during the monsoon session of Parliament.

While participants expressed their unanimous appreciation for the Indian Supreme Court's recent ruling where the existence of a fundamental right to privacy in India was formally recognized, some felt the Constitution still lacked a well-defined structure to make sure that people and organizations respect the right to privacy in everything they do.

The issue of informed consent was also debated at length. While there was a general consensus that it is extremely important, some were of the opinion that informed consent alone is no longer enough to ensure respect for user privacy. It was said that consent must not only be informed, but also meaningful by giving users true control over their data. Views saw an extent of divergence when it came to regulatory models, as some called for overarching regulations with extensive provisions on collection, retention and sharing of data while others stressed the importance of light-touch regulations for enabling growth in the industry.

The discussion also briefly touched upon the controversies around Aadhaar, with some saying that it has the potential to significantly enhance existing governance models and others maintaining that the privacy and security concerns it raises are simply too grave to overcome.

Public/private amalgamation of data for monetization purposes was another area of concern highlighted during the discussion. While it was agreed that ensuring the highest levels of protection for personal data is an urgent need, the requirement of an effective and safe framework to make relevant data available to public for research and innovation purposes was also stressed upon by many.

About SFLC.in:

SFLC.in is a donor-supported legal services organisation that brings together lawyers, policy analysts, technologists, and students to protect freedom in the digital world. SFLC.in  promotes innovation and open access to knowledge by helping developers make great Free and Open Source Software, protect privacy and civil liberties for citizens in the digital world by educating and providing free legal advice and help policy makers make informed and just decisions with the use and adoption of technology.

About Ananta Aspen Centre:

An independent organization, Ananta Centre is registered under the Indian Trust Act. It focuses on leadership development and encourages frank and open dialogue on the most important issues facing Indian society, to help foster its transformation. The Centre also engages civil society, business, governments and other key stake – holders on issues of importance to India's development, foreign policy, strategic affairs and national security. The Centre serves as a convening body for exchange of ideas, broadening perspectives and enhancing capacity to create sustainable solutions on a wide variety of issues.

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 | Oct 25,2017

“Privacy Bytes” launched by SFLC.in as a one-stop destination for resources on online privacy in India

New Delhi, October 24, 2017: Delhi-based not-for-profit legal services organization SFLC.in today launched “Privacy Bytes”, a new website to provide policy makers, academics, media persons and the public at large with resources on online privacy-related issues, matters and cases in India. Accessible at privacy.sflc.in; the website has compiled notes on the Right to Privacy; FAQs and information about the existing legal situation regarding privacy in India as well as information about the efforts underway to shape the future of privacy in India. SFLC.in also launched a twitter presence @privacybytes that will provide the latest updates and resources on privacy. The website will also feature extensive resources on privacy laws around the world, Indian and international reports on privacy and judicial pronouncements on citizens’ right to privacy.

Mishi Choudhary, President at SFLC.in said, “Guaranteeing the citizens’ right to privacy is a fundamental step towards realizing the vision of a digitally empowered society in India. As the contours of privacy and data protection laws for Indian citizens are being drawn up, we believe this is the right time to produce a comprehensive repository on all matters related to privacy to spread awareness as well as support an informed analysis and discussion among all stakeholders involved.”

The right to privacy has been a matter of public debate in India in the recent months. In August 2017, a nine-judge bench of India’s Supreme Court unanimously ruled that Right to Privacy is an integral part of Right to Life and Personal Liberty guaranteed in Article 21 of the Constitution of India. It added that the right to privacy is intrinsic to the entire fundamental rights chapter of the Constitution. Earlier in July, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) constituted a Committee of Experts to study and identify key data protection issues and suggest a draft Data Protection Bill.

SFLC.in also said that it will soon publish simple infographics that will explain how to protect and safeguard privacy in the age of smartphones; and will continually add new resources and content on the issue on ‘Privacy Bytes’ website.

About SFLC.in:
SFLC.IN is a donor supported legal services organisation that brings together lawyers, policy analysts, technologists, and students to protect freedom in the digital world. SFLC.IN promotes innovation and open access to knowledge by helping developers make great Free and Open Source Software, protect privacy and civil liberties for citizens in the digital world by educating and providing free legal advice and help policy makers make informed and just decisions with the use and adoption of technology. You can support their work by making tax-deductible donations and providing feedback.

All Posts | Sep 22,2017

Workshop on Secure Communication

SFLC.in is organising a workshop on “Secure Communication ” in association with Sukhbir Singh, TOR Developer, on Saturday, September 23, 2017, from 11:00AM-:1:30 PM at the SFLC.in premises at K-9, Second Floor, Birbal Road, Jangpura Extension, New Delhi -110014 near Jangpura Metro station – Gate no 2.

We live in an era of unprecedented surveillance. The technical capabilities of law enforcement and intelligence agencies are rapidly expanding, and even the best attempts at law reform can’t keep up with these new powers. Over and over again, we’ve seen these capabilities used against protected free speech activities, especially against the speech of marginalized people.

Compounding the problem of government surveillance is that of corporate surveillance; we rely on a small handful of data-driven private companies for all of our computing needs, and many of these services are “free” because we are the product. These corporate entities regularly collude with law enforcement to share our private communications, searches, contacts, and more — quite often without our knowledge. By fighting against surveillance, we can reject an internet controlled by a handful of powerful corporate entities and intelligence agencies, and take back our rights in the digital sphere.

The workshop will cover crypto tools which will make it easy for you to:

* protect your privacy online
* anonymize your online activity
* encrypt your chat and emails that no one can break!

Date : September 23, 2017
Time : 11am – 1.30pm
Venue : SFLC.in premises at K-9, Second Floor, Birbal Road, Jangpura Extension, New Delhi -110014
Includes : Drinks, Food & Fun

As we have limited seating available for this discussion, we would request you to please RSVP here.

In case of any query and/or clarification, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us. We look forward to seeing you at the event!

All Posts | Aug 30,2017

Celebrating the Right to be Let Alone

SFLC.in is holding a discussion on “Celebrating the Right to be Let Alone” on Saturday, September 02, 2017, from 4:00-6:00 PM at the SFLC.in premises at K-9, Second Floor, Birbal Road, Jangpura Extension, New Delhi -110014 near Jangpura Metro station – Gate no 2.

During this time, we will celebrate the recognition of right to privacy as a fundamental right, discuss the recent privacy judgment, its key takeaways, the impact it will have on the pending Aadhaar litigations, how it will affect various aspects of policy making and the way forward from here. Speakers would include experts from academia, civil society and law.

Please join us for an amazing discussion with food and drinks. As we have limited seating available for this discussion, we would request you to send us an RSVP latest by Friday, September 01, 2017. In case of any query and/or clarification, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us.

Please RSVP here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/celebrating-the-right-to-be-let-alone-tickets-37412775619

All Posts | Aug 04,2017

[Press Release] High Court permits filing of Income Tax Returns without quoting Aadhaar

Kochi, 4th August 2017: Prasanth Sugathan, Legal Director at SFLC.in filed a Writ petition (W.P.(C) 26033/2017) before the Hon’ble High Court of Kerala , challenging the mandatory requirement as per Section 139AA of the amended Income Tax Act, 1961 to quote Aadhaar number or enrolment ID for filing Income tax returns.

The Hon’ble High Court has admitted the matter and passed an interim order, directing the concerned Income tax Officer to allow the petitioner to file IT Returns manually, without quoting Aadhaar number or Aadhaar enrollment ID.

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court heard the challenge of mandatory linking of Aadhaat to PAN in the cases of Binoy Viswam v. Union of India (W.P.(C) 247/2017), S.G. Vombatkere & Anr. v. Union of India (W.P.(C) 277/2017) and the two-judge bench held that the PAN cards of those people who are not Aadhaar card holders, and who do not comply with the provision of Section 139(2), cannot be “treated as invalid for the time being”.

Prasanth Sugathan submitted before the Hon’ble Court that the partial stay granted by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the Binoy Viswam case would be futile, if assesses are forced to quote Aadhaar No. while filing the returns.

Mishi Choudhary, President, SFLC.in said that they have been continuously working to raise awareness about the mission creep that is happening with the Aadhaar scheme. The so-called voluntary scheme is being made mandatory for citizens to avail a host of services as well for performing obligations as a citizen.

The interim order can be read here:

About SFLC.in :
SFLC.IN is a donor supported legal services organisation that brings together lawyers, policy analysts, technologists, and students to protect freedom in the digital world. SFLC.IN promotes innovation and open access to knowledge by helping developers make great Free and Open Source Software, protect privacy and civil liberties for citizens in the digital world by educating and providing free legal advice and help policy makers make informed and just decisions with the use and adoption of technology.

For more information please contact:

Mishi Choudhary,
President and Founding Director, SFLC.in
+1 917 325 8594
mishi-at-softwarefreedom-dot-org

Prasanth Sugathan,
Legal Director, SFLC.in
+91 90135 85902 / +91 94472 91565
prasanth-at-sflc-dot-in

All Posts | May 29,2017

SFLC.in & 17 other NGOs file an intervention before France’s highest court on dangers of the ‘right to be forgotten’

SFLC.in joined 17 other non-governmental organisations from across the globe as amicus in a voluntary intervention filed before France’s highest court, the Council of State (Conseil d’État), raising serious concerns about a ruling of France’s data protection authority, the Commission nationale de l’informatique et des libertés (CNIL), on the “right to be forgotten”.

In 2014, CNIL ordered Google to remove 21 links from the results of an Internet search on the name of a French citizen who claims a “right to be forgotten.” Google initially removed the links from its French search site (www.google.fr) and other European search sites (such as www.google.ie), but CNIL demanded it go further. Google then blocked the links from results returned to European users, even when using Google’s non-European sites, including www.google.com. CNIL however demands that when it orders content to be “forgotten” from search results, this decision must be given effect worldwide, meaning that the results must be made unavailable to all users internationally, regardless of where they are accessing internet search engines. CNIL has also imposed a huge fine on Google, of €100,000.

In our legal submissions filed with the Council of State, we highlighted grave concerns about CNIL’s approach and its implications for human rights worldwide. We pointed out that we, like many people across the world, rely on freedom of expression and the free exchange of ideas and information online in order to carry out our important work in protecting human rights internationally. CNIL has unilaterally imposed draconian restrictions on free expression upon all organisations and individuals who use the internet around the world, even imposing a “right to be forgotten” upon countries which do not recognise this principle. The CNIL ruling causes particularly serious damage to human rights protection in the developing world. In our submissions, we urged the Council of State to annul the CNIL’s decision, stating:

“In the developing world, given that some governments are already trying to restrict freedoms on the internet through restrictive local laws, a precedent compelling companies to remove content based on already limiting laws will have the effect of eliminating checks and balances that inhere in international law. Countries such as Pakistan are already making efforts to ensure that certain political and critical content is removed from cyber space and the interveners are concerned that compelling companies to follow restrictive laws will further stymie the right to access to information and free speech. Such a precedent will also mean that dissent within a country can be censored in equal measure internationally.

As a result, the order of the CNIL sets a dangerous precedent, by opening the door for national authorities in other countries to impose global restrictions on freedom of expression through remedies grounded solely in their own domestic law. The possible race to the bottom is of the utmost concern to the interveners.”

The decision of the Council of State on Google’s appeal is expected later this year.

The original intervention as filed in french can be found here.

An English translated copy of the intervention is available here: