“Privacy” is a concept most dear to human right activists and is considered as an important pillar of democracy. Constitutions of all democratic countries swear by Privacy Rights to its citizens. However, it is well known that no Government in the World is really intending to provide “Privacy Rights” which infringe on the Security of the State and hence all Privacy legislations provide for “Reasonable Exceptions”.
If there is a direct conflict between providing “Privacy” for Citizens and “National Security”, there is no option but to chose National Security.
The problem however is that while “Surrender of Privacy Rights” in the name of National Security is normally accepted by all right thinking Citizens, there is a fear that the information so surrendered may not be used by the State for the purpose for which it is collected. The misuse may be for political reasons or for the self interest of officials who are provided with powers to deal with the information in the interest of national security.
Similarly, when commercial organizations seek information which is in violation of the general privacy norms, for the purpose of providing some services in return, most Citizens are able to forego their rights if they see value in return. Hence if Google maps provide directions for driving, we obviously donot mind sharing our locations. We also may not mind Google maps suggesting through some advertisements, services such as hotels on the highway as part of its service since it could be of some use.
Again the problem arises when the commercial entities donot provide adequate value in return for the private information exchanged by the individual or use it in contexts different from the purpose for which they were shared or simply are not transparent of their intentions.
With the new developments such as Smart Cities, Smart Grid, IOT, Big Data etc, the concept of mining data from multiple sources has become an acceptable practice. E-Governance in India has placed large quality of both Personal and Sensitive Personal Data in narrow funnels such as the Aadhar system, the Digi Locker System or the UPI or the upcoming GST. Citizens donot have the confidence that these agencies will be able to protect the integrity of the system and sooner or later (if not already) the data shared by millions of Indians with these authorities in good faith and in confidence will be available in public domain.
Hence the fight for “Privacy” may already be a lost cause at least for the current generation. We therefore need to learn to live without privacy.
However, the next generation which have not already shared their personal information to Aadhar and other agencies may still have an opportunity to keep their future activities away from the risk of privacy breach if we can develop a suitable system which provides a middle of the road solution between Privacy and National Security.
The solution for “Privacy in harmony with National Interest” is therefore to find a method by which an individual can interact with the world without disclosing his identity to the extent it is not necessary either in the interest of the transaction nor national interest.
The quest for such a solution is the challenge to all of us who need to leave a legacy of “Privacy Protection” to our posterity though we ourselves may not consider it feasible at this point of time.
“Anonymization” of transactions could be a solution but it needs to be protected in the interest of “Security”. Hence the solution lies in building a system of “Regulated Anonymity System” which is also a system of “Filtered Identity Management” system.
The time for such a solution seems to have arrived now with Aadhaar, Digi Locker and UPI systems becoming a part of every individual in India and all these are dependent on the Mobile identity of an individual which therefore has become a universal ID for all of us. Unfortunately the KYC system under which the mobile ID is issued as well as the security risks in its compromise place all our other IDs in danger of being subsumed by the insecurity associated with the Mobile ID.
Hope technologists will start working towards finding a solution to this problem..