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Rahul Matthan's en­gag­ing book traces chang­ing no­tions of pri­vacy from the ear­li­est times to its evo­lu­tion in a mod­ern, com­plex world to­day.

India Business Journal - - CONTENTS -

- Pri­vacy 3.0 Pub­lish­ers On Pub­lish­ing The Cli­mate So­lu­tion

Our per­sonal space is dear to us all. We live our lives in full public view on so­cial me­dia - post­ing pho­tos of the food we just ate or even ex­press­ing in­ti­mate feel­ings for our loved ones. But there are still things that we would rather not share with the world.

In­deed, it is pri­vacy that sets man apart from the an­i­mals who must stick to­gether in the wild for their own safety. But mankind was not born pri­vate. Our prim­i­tive an­ces­tors too lived in large groups, ev­ery mem­ber of which knew all there was to know about the others. Pri­vacy evolved over time as man de­vel­oped tech­nolo­gies to wall him­self off, even as he re­mained a part of the so­ci­ety at large. But just as some tech­nolo­gies en­hanced pri­vacy, others - such as the print­ing press or the por­ta­ble cam­era - chipped away at it. Ev­ery time this hap­pened, man op­posed the tech­nol­ogy at first but made his peace with it even­tu­ally to ben­e­fit from the ob­vi­ous good it could do.

We are at sim­i­lar cross­roads to­day with data tech­nolo­gies. Aad­haar is one ex­am­ple of the many ways in which we have be­gun to use data in ev­ery­thing we do. While it has made it far eas­ier to avail our­selves of ser­vices from the gov­ern­ment and pri­vate en­ter­prises than ever be­fore, there are those who rightly worry about peo­ple's pri­vate data be­ing put to ill use - and, worse, with­out con­sent.

But this anx­i­ety is no dif­fer­ent from that which we felt dur­ing the teething trou­bles of ev­ery pre­vi­ous tech­nol­ogy we adopted. What we re­ally need is a new frame­work that un­locks the full po­ten­tial of a datadriven fu­ture while still safe­guard­ing what we hold most dear - our pri­vacy.

In this pi­o­neer­ing work, tech­nol­ogy lawyer and au­thor Rahul Matthan traces the chang­ing no­tions of pri­vacy from the ear­li­est times to its evo­lu­tion through land­mark cases in the UK, the US and In­dia. Mr Matthan's book is di­vided into three broad sec­tions, re­flect­ing what he be­lieves are three crit­i­cal phases in the evo­lu­tion of pri­vacy as an idea. He calls th­ese phases Pri­vacy 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0. He ar­gues that Pri­vacy 1.0 saw the emer­gence of per­sonal spa­ces and pri­vate thoughts as im­por­tant ideas; 2.0 was when tech­nolo­gies, such as the print­ing press, be­gan in­vad­ing th­ese spa­ces and thoughts, lead­ing to laws on pri­vacy and con­sent; while 3.0 has seen digi­ti­sa­tion turn­ing con­sent-based pri­vacy re­dun­dant, cre­at­ing a need for a new ap­proach to pri­vacy.

The book gets in­ter­est­ing when it touches upon digi­ti­sa­tion and its as­so­ci­ated prob­lems, most pow­er­fully rep­re­sented by Aad­haar. The au­thor re­counts his per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences of be­ing drafted by the Central gov­ern­ment to help frame a pri­vacy law con­sid­er­ing Aad­haar. He takes a very nu­anced, bal­anced view of both the sit­u­a­tion and the de­bates he en­coun­ters. He points out how a de­sire to dis­play trans­parency pushes gov­ern­ment agen­cies to over­reach them­selves and com­pro­mise in­di­vid­ual pri­vacy. At the same time, the au­thor em­pha­sises the need for both pri­vacy laws and in­sti­tu­tional frame­works to deal with such sit­u­a­tions bet­ter.

In the process, Mr Matthan re-imag­ines the way we should be think­ing about pri­vacy to­day if we are to take full ad­van­tage of mod­ern data tech­nolo­gies. The book also cau­tions us against get­ting so ob­sessed with the po­ten­tial harm from data tech­nolo­gies that we de­sign our laws to pre­vent us from ben­e­fit­ing from them at all.

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