[... (Gautam) Bhatia believes that Aadhaar in itself is not a surveillance
mechanism, but has the “potential” to be one. “***If information is in
different silos, the seeding of databases is okay, but the minute you
combine it, then you are very well placed to be a perfect surveillance
state*** [emphasis added],” he says.
Gautam speaks of how metadata gives you a deeper insight into people than
actual data. “If you tape my phone conversation, you get data, but if you
know who I called, who I had coffee with, visited a doctor, a divorce
consultant and a physiotherapist… that gives you much more data to map me
with near perfection,” says Bhatia, who is the author of Offend, Shock or
Disturb: Free Speech Under the Indian Constitution.]

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/rhodes-scholar-to-carnatic-singer-meet-4-young-lawyers-in-privacy-fight-4785544/

Rhodes scholar to Carnatic singer, meet 4 young lawyers in privacy fight
Prasanna believes that technology ruling lives can only be deemed as fair
if it is “proveably so and nothing in Aadhaar has been able to convince me
of that”.

Written by Seema Chishti

New Delhi | Updated: August 7, 2017 10:11 am

 right to privacy, privacy as fundamental right, Supreme Court on privacy
fundamental right, Aadhaar card compulsion, aadhar act, latest news, india
news, indian express

(From left) Gautam Bhatia, Prasanna S, Kritika Bhardwaj and Apar Gupta
outside the Supreme Court. Tashi Tobgyal

AS THE Supreme Court examines whether privacy is a fundamental right, a
community of young lawyers has taken it upon themselves to spread the word
— that the right to privacy is “non-negotiable”. So, from sitting through
every court hearing to live-tweeting proceedings, from taking on the Centre
when it argues that the Constitution does not provide for privacy as a
fundamental right to breaking down the web of legalese around the debate,
these lawyers are trying to help shape the architecture that will govern
Indian lives in the age of unique IDs, technology and machines.

Prasanna S, Apar Gupta, and Kritika Bhardwaj are assisting senior counsel
Shyam Divan, who is representing four privacy petitioners, including Shanta
Sinha, the former head of the National Commission for the Protection of
Child Rights, and Magsaysay awardee Bezwada Wilson. Gautam Bhatia is
assisting another senior lawyer, Arvind Datar, who is arguing for the
Election Commission and for privacy as a fundamental right.
There are seven petitioners in the case with at least 12 active counsel in
the matter before the nine-judge bench.

Prasanna S, 34
The Hosur-born, Tamil-speaking Prasanna sees nothing exceptional about his
transition from the world of software to the thickets of Constitutional law
four years ago. “Many technologists have moved to fields like investment
banking. No questions are asked of them,” says Prasanna, now an
independent, Delhi-based lawyer. Prasanna, who is also a trained Carnatic
singer, believes his background in software and technology gives him “at
least the vocabulary to understand new challenges to civil liberties”.

“Many technologists have moved to fields like investment banking. No
questions are asked of them,” says Prasanna, now an independent,
Delhi-based lawyer. Prasanna, who is also a trained Carnatic singer,
believes his background in software and technology gives him “at least the
vocabulary to understand new challenges to civil liberties”.

He says the general lack of opposition among the public to ideas such as
Aadhaar, the unique ID programme that is at the core of the privacy debate,
stems from a “fascination with technology” and a belief “that if it is a
machine, it will make correct choices”.

Nothing could be more flawed, he says. “I can see through that clearly,
being fully aware of how technology can have design limitations,” says
Prasanna. In the case of biometrics, Prasanna says, “With an error-rate
higher than 10 per cent, if this flawed technology rejects the population
the size of the state of Bihar as being ineligible for rations, what is to
be done? Is that acceptable?”

Prasanna believes that technology ruling lives can only be deemed as fair
if it is “proveably so and nothing in Aadhaar has been able to convince me
of that”.

right to privacy, privacy as fundamental right, Supreme Court on privacy
fundamental right, Aadhaar card compulsion, aadhar act, latest news, india
news, indian express The lawyers photographed on the central lawns of the
Supreme Court in New Delhi. (Express Photo by Tashi Tobgyal)

Gautam Bhatia, 28
The Rhodes scholar is also a sci-fi geek. He edits Strange Horizons, a
UK-based science-fiction magazine, and is now looking at post-colonial
science-fiction. One of the lawyers on senior counsel Datar’s team, he is
among the leading voices in the privacy debate, even live-tweeting the apex
court’s proceedings. Bhatia was studying for a degree in legal philosophy
at Yale when WikiLeaks broke, followed by Edward Snowden’s revelations in
June 2013. In December 2013, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a law
against surveillance and Bhatia took a train to the New York district court
to hear ACLU fight the US National Security Agency for two-and-a-half hours.

After he returned to India, his alma-mater, the National Law School in
Bengaluru, asked him to do a paper on surveillance in the Indian context.
To Bhatia, that was a “golden moment”, when his academic pursuits and
events at home and abroad got him interested in data, meta-data and privacy
concerns. Bhatia believes that Aadhaar in itself is not a surveillance
mechanism, but has the “potential” to be one. “If information is in
different silos, the seeding of databases is okay, but the minute you
combine it, then you are very well placed to be a perfect surveillance
state,” he says.

Gautam speaks of how metadata gives you a deeper insight into people than
actual data. “If you tape my phone conversation, you get data, but if you
know who I called, who I had coffee with, visited a doctor, a divorce
consultant and a physiotherapist… that gives you much more data to map me
with near perfection,” says Bhatia, who is the author of Offend, Shock or
Disturb: Free Speech Under the Indian Constitution.

So what is an ideal right to privacy law? “Any law on privacy has to be
founded on principles of informed consent and specific consent. Informed
consent means the person is aware of what use it’s being put to and
specific consent means that the authorities must seek consent for each
specific act.”

Gautam thinks a national political culture that does not value privacy can
only go one way. “Look at history — societies where privacy is devalued
become totalitarian. East Germany, with its Stasi (Ministry of State
Security that carried out mass surveillance), was not a strong state, but a
state where the national political culture is such that privacy does not
count, becomes a surveillance state,” he says.

Gautam believes that violation of privacy enables discrimination. “Bezwada
Wilson has spoken of how manual scavengers do not want to be identified,
nor do people like trafficked women who have been freed. Too much data
about citizens with the state is anti-democratic.”

right to privacy, privacy as fundamental right, Supreme Court on privacy
fundamental right, Aadhaar card compulsion, aadhar act, latest news, india
news, indian express There are seven petitioners in the case with at least
12 active counsel in the matter before the nine-judge bench. (Express Photo
by Tashi Tobgyal)

Apar Gupta, 33
@Aparatbar is a familiar Twitter handle to serious followers of the privacy
and data debate in India. Gupta says he operates in the space between the
“polar worlds of rockstar litigant Harish Salve and Prashant Bhushan, who
does public interest litigation”.
A product of Columbia Law School and before that, Mount St Mary’s school in
Delhi, Gupta says, “It is true society will be incredibly digital, but if
you divorce it from civil rights and constitutionality, you will get
something very unjust. We want to push this back.”

So why would governments want Aadhaar to be made compulsory when they have
passports and PANs? “There is an administrative fetish, which is fed by
Aadhaar. (Governments) get a digital dashboard and are able to create the
illusion that they are administering efficiently. It’s on a good-faith
basis to some degree, but all digitisation is not good. Digital IDs by
themselves have resulted in savings, but that has been without Aadhaar.
Conservative estimates are that nearly Rs 11,000 crore has been spent on
Aadhaar,” he says.

Kritika Bharadwaj, 26
She is currently reading three books: Delete, on the Right to be Forgotten,
The Second Sex by Simone De Beauvoir and Seven Minutes, a courtroom
thriller. But Kritika, a political science graduate from LSR, went on to do
an LLB from Delhi University’s Faculty of Law and later Masters from
Cambridge in Information Law. But even before her Masters, she had cut her
teeth on Aadhaar-related matters and done meticulous research on
international laws, biometrics, international practices, protocols and
databases in the world.

“We were shocked by the Centre’s arguments that privacy is not a
fundamental right. We had prepared things pertinent to Aadhaar, of
projects, exclusion and biometrics. But when the government made this plea,
we all sat up and decided to help push this back,” she says.

Yet, she says, the “real challenge to us is the ‘so what’ challenge. “So
what if privacy is violated, people say. We are still trying to address
that convincingly,” she says. “My understanding and study tells me that the
real worry is that the citizen does not even know what the government knows
about him and how it will be used against the citizen. That is a lot of
information asymmetry. Also, with so much data about everyone, there is
implicit, a presumption of guilt of each citizen,” she says.


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