Privacy versus National Interest – An overview

The journey of privacy has been a roller-coaster ride in INDIA. This topic has been debated a lot and has again come to highlight because of the controversial biometric project.

Most people value their ability to keep their private lives private, to protect information that they consider private. Some people do it to hide information about their financial status, or relationship status.The importance of such a right cannot be denied – secret voting enshrines the principle that how people vote is ultimately their own private decision – even if they choose to publicly back a particular candidate, nobody is allowed to scrutinize their DECISION.

However, in the case of the biometric project, it has caused great concern among civil liberties campaigners, who argue that such state intervention threatens the privacy of ordinary citizens and also many experts believe it is not a fair trade-off for protecting the national interest.

When it comes to defining National Interest, it is the interest of a nation as a whole held to be an independent entity separate from the interests of subordinate areas or groups and also of other nations or supranational groups. In this case, it seems to be a fair decision to trade off citizen’s privacy for national security.

What actually privacy is? Privacy is widely regarded as an important right in free and democratic societies. Article 17 of the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that: “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honor and reputation” and “Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks”.

In India, the Right to privacy is one such right, which has come to its existence after widening up the dimensions of Article 21. The constitution in specific doesn’t grant any right to privacy as such. However, such a right has been culled by the Supreme Court from Art. 21 and several other provisions of the constitution read with the Directive Principles of State Policy.

Security versus privacy

The idea of government possessing citizen’s private information can be associated with AUTHORITARIAN REGIMES and can be a key feature of George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, in which privacy is all but eliminated.

Despite a general consensus on the value of privacy, many argue it has limits or rather it must have some restrictions. If the government is able to maintain the right balance between privacy and security enabling the authorities to keep tabs on personal information, without giving them carte blanche to snoop on citizens. For those in favour of compromising on privacy for the sake of national security, the key point is that seeking such information is no big deal given the rationale behind it.  In other words, privacy might be important, but is it so important that we should risk national and international security rather than compromise a little?

Even the supreme court of India quoted that “Right to privacy can never be an absolute entitlement.” In my own opinion, I believe that both privacy, as well as security, are important for different reasons. I believe that national security is important because we are and will be protected as a whole. On the other hand, our privacy is important as well because everyone wants to keep their personal business to their self’s, or at least have the opinion to keep it that way. I believe that people should be able to have their own personal privacy without worrying that it’ll be interrupted. I also believe that national security is important so that people will know they are and will be protected without worry. What is to be done is maintaining the right balance and a reasonable compromise between privacy and security. Well, as many say, “We should be willing to compromise our privacy in the interests of national and international security”

RIGHT TO PRIVACY IN INDIA

The right to privacy is seeded in several articles of Part III of the Constitution.

To pass the test of privacy, any law framed must be constitutionally valid. It must be need-based and it must be proportionated to the abridgement sought to the right to privacy consistent with actual need.

GOVERNMENT IS FACING A CHALLENGE

The government faces a formidable legal challenge in implementing its ambitious unique identification programme. Pleas have been made before the Supreme Court questioning the lack of a statutory basis for the collection of biometric details, and the government has to meet this point to the court’s satisfaction. Instead of arguing that privacy is not a fundamental right, it would do well to assure the court that it has the technology and systems to protect the data collected. And that it would do everything possible to prevent unauthorised disclosure of or access to such data.

WHAT WE NEED IS PRIVACY ACT

A Group of Experts appointed by the Planning Commission and headed by Justice (retd.) A.P. Shah came out with a comprehensive report in 2012 containing a framework for a Privacy Act. Such a law, it said, should recognise all dimensions of the right to privacy and address concerns about data safety, protection from unauthorised interception, surveillance, use of personal identifiers and bodily privacy. Underscoring a set of privacy principles, the committee said the underlying idea should be that the data controller should be accountable for the collection, processing and use to which data are put. In its zeal to aggregate data in electronic form and target subsidies better, the government cannot ignore its responsibility to protect citizens from the perils of the cyber era.

BUT To pass the test of privacy, any law framed must be constitutionally valid. It must be need-based and it must be proportionate to the abridgement sought to the right to privacy consistent with actual need.

Also, many people who totally protest that privacy should not be compromised at any cost should not forget what former president of Obama quoted, THAT YOU CANNOT HAVE 100% SECURITY AND 100% PRIVACY.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

IMG-20170904-WA0046

DEEKSHA KATHAYAT

Deeksha Kathayat is currently pursuing BLS LLB (third-year) from Dr. D. Y. Patil College of Law. An enthusiast debater and avid mooter, she’s into occasions where she can express her views on various issues. She believes that we realize the importance of our voice only when we are silenced. An aspiring bureaucrat, she describes herself as Unstoppable, Unconstrained, and Zealous.

6 thoughts on “Privacy versus National Interest – An overview

  1. Great read! I personally believe it’s not possible and feasible for any government to promulgate 100 percent privacy. It would be an utopian concept because we live in a large society consisting of interests of millions of people and it’s just impossible to empower this right one hundred percent! The poles offer a great incentive though for anyone seeking total privacy.

    Like

  2. Yes, I am agree with you that a reasonable balance shall be maintained between privacy and national security. It’s a very good article.

    Like

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