Cyberspace needs better laws, and more trustworthy companies
As most of our social and private lives are taken over by private companies that work through the almost border-less Internet, governing the millions of bytes of data that transfer huge amounts of information about users across the Internet becomes vitally important.editorials Updated: Sep 26, 2017 22:31 IST
The CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, acknowledging that users of technology deserve better privacy and data security is a step in the right direction in the realm of cyber security. The thorny matters of cyber security and privacy on the Internet are some of the most pressing and complicated legal questions of our time. Since technology companies cater to users across geographical and legal boundaries, protection of user rights within an online space becomes that much harder. How much information about users is available to the companies themselves, whether it’s ethical to use user data for profit, and how much access law enforcement agencies must have to such data, are some of the questions that need to be considered seriously and immediately.
As most of our social and private lives are taken over by private companies that work through the almost border-less Internet, governing the millions of bytes of data that transfer huge amounts of information about users across the Internet becomes vitally important. From banking to sharing photos, and from calling our mothers to shopping, almost every aspect of our lives is now mediated by private technology companies. These companies have access to data that can reveal intimate details of the users’ lives. Companies such as Google and Microsoft technically have access to user data ranging from personal emails to detailed location histories for every single user, across national boundaries. Law enforcement agencies, coercive governments, hackers, and others might all gain access to this information via various methods. Mr. Nadella is therefore absolutely right in saying that technology companies must work towards making themselves more trustworthy to users. Mr. Nadella’s advice to develop a “principled, transparent, and efficient framework” for Internet governance is critical not just to the future of the Internet but also to law enforcement and cooperation across the world. Promoting trust in technological companies is a vital first step, and ensuring that data collected from users remains secure is a fundamental concern.
Given the recent Supreme Court judgement that reads privacy as a fundamental right of Indian citizens, how this is enacted within cyberspace and with respect to technology companies will be one of the most important issues in India going forward. Stronger privacy protections for individuals, clear laws for data access to law enforcement and other agencies, and transparent legal frameworks for the collection of digital evidence must be worked out. While social media and online footprints can be effectively used in crime detection and prevention, it must be ensured that we don’t devolve into a surveillance society in which every individual is living in a veritable panopticon.