Internet of Things (IoT) and threat of Section 66A judgement

The Government of India has released a policy document titled “IoT Policy Document” indicating that it foresees a market of USD 15 billion (approx Rs 90000 crores) by 2020. The connected decices are expected to increase from 200 million at present to over 2.7 billion by 2020 (20 crore to 270 crores).

(Related Article in ET)

IoT is defined in the policy as ” a seamless connected network of embedded objects/ devices, with identifiers, in which M2M communication without any human intervention is possible using standard and interoperable communication  protocols.” –  (Phones, Tablets and PCs are not included as part of IoT).

The vision is to develop a connected and smart IoT based system for our country’s economy, Society, Environment and global needs.

It is expected that the Smart City projects will give a boost to various IoT products such as automated metering and monitoring utilities, waste management, Oil and Gas, Health, supply Chain management etc.

In order to achieve the goals, various suggestions have been made including the Governance Structure. Under this, Government proposes to set up an Advisory Committee including the representatives from Government, Industry and Academia for providing ongoing guidance.

The constitution of the committee as envisaged in the policy includes Government representatives, domain ministry members and industry experts on devices, semi conductors and nano electronics, software, networking, sensor technologies and cloud and application security.

It is to be noted that the policy does not consider it necessary to bring in “Techno Legal Cyber Law Specialists” as part of the group when such a major change is being brought about in the society.

Even in the recent Digi Locker project which was announced by the Government in beta version, it was pointed out that the proposed system was contrary to the current law of digital signatures in India.

The recent judgement in scrapping of Section 66A shows that the judges at all levels need to understand technology in the right perspective as otherwise they will react adversely to irrelevant issues. In this case, they have applied the law meant for messages to an act of “publishing” and held that section 66A should be scrapped. This is because the current generation of judges have been brought up on the diet of IPC and they are unable to understand the nuances of technology. What they donot understand, they try to eliminate since they have the powers.

As IoT deals with our day to day products and services, there is a greater need to understand the legal issues as they emerge when your fridge orders supplies on your behalf, when the ambulance carrying a critical patient is stopped by a malfunctioning traffic light system, when the piped gas or water supply is disrupted because the electronic meter system goes faulty.

Are our Judges capable of interpreting the technology in the right perspective? At present it does not appear to be so.

In the case of Section 66A, judges say that law is not “Specific” and words such as “annoyance”, “offensive” etc should be legally defined. The same judges if they are interpreting a law related to “Internet of Things” or “Big Data” may say, the law should define what is a “thing”, “device”,”Big”, “Smart”, “M2M”, “Tablet” etc and if it is not provided, will strike down the law.

It is therefore very essential that the implementation of IoT policy requires a careful handling of the legal issues involved and along with the IoT policy, we need to look at Cyber Law Vision -2018 so that by the time the USD 15billion market opens up, we will have the cyber law infrastructure ready.

Simultaneously we need to develop a plan of action to educate and build awareness of Cyber Laws in the judiciary starting at the highest level down to the Magistrates.

I therefore urge the Government to include in the Advisory Committee appropriate persons with techno legal perspective to provide inputs when the policy implementation is taking shape rather than facing a problem after the die is cast.


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About Vijayashankar Na

Naavi is a veteran Cyber Law specialist in India and is presently working from Bangalore as an Information Assurance Consultant. Pioneered concepts such as ITA 2008 compliance, Naavi is also the founder of Cyber Law College, a virtual Cyber Law Education institution. He now has been focusing on the projects such as Secure Digital India and Cyber Insurance
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