What’s in a name or num­ber? Ev­ery­thing, in era of less pri­vacy & iden­tity theft

Sunday Express - - SUNDAY STORY - DIAREKHI @ Chen­nai

“COULD I have your name and num­ber, ma'am?” the cashier at the clothes store asks po­litely.

“Of course!” the ea­ger shop­per replies and rat­tles off her name and 10 holy dig­its linked to ev­ery­thing from bank ac­counts to food de­liv­ery apps.

This shop­per could have been any In­dian who is al­ways look­ing to gain ‘loy­alty points’ to get a free­bie or dis­count — if not im­me­di­ately, at least in time for Di­wali. But, does an av­er­age In­dian shop­per stop to think of how their safety and se­cu­rity are be­ing jeop­ar­dised while try­ing to make a quick buck?

“I give my name and num­ber at all shops and res­tau­rants,” says K Soumya (name changed), who works at a bank. “The rea­son I give out my de­tails is sim­ple: I want a dis­count the next time I come back to shop or eat. Some­times it is also to gen­uinely give feed­back to the restau­rant man­ager. I never per­ceived it to be risky which is why I did it.”

This lack of aware­ness about the ill-ef­fects of com­pro­mis­ing on pri­vacy is lead­ing to a num­ber of is­sues like data theft and cy­ber fraud. “We have to re­alise that we should not trade our pri­vacy for a few ex­tra ru­pees,” says Pa­van Duggal, a Supreme Court lawyer and cy­ber law ex­pert. “Giv­ing out in­for­ma­tion at stores and res­tau­rants is like walk­ing into an ope­nended net. It must be com­pletely avoided. Stores mon­e­tise your data and may also sharie that data with other par­ties. You are a prod­uct for them, af­ter all, so why must you trade your data? It is a los­ing bar­gain!”

‘Pri­vacy’ has been the buzz­word ever since the Supreme Court in July said the word is an ‘amor­phous’ term, and not an ab­so­lute right that can pre­vent the State from mak­ing laws im­pos­ing rea­son­able re­stric­tions on cit­i­zens. This be­comes par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant as pe­ti­tions chal­leng­ing Aad­haar say bio­met­ric data like iris scans and fin­ger­prints vi­o­late a cit­i­zens’ pri­vacy.

Mak­ing a case against Aad­haar, cy­ber law ex­pert Na Vi­jayashankar says n a bid to sim­plify and en­sure a seam­less sys­tem, Aad­haar is re­sult­ing in the uni­fi­ca­tion of risk, be­com­ing a sin­gle point of vul­ner­a­bil­ity. “Aad­haar is a recipe for dis­as­ter,” says Vi­jayashanker. “It pri­mar­ily uses a ci­ti­zen’s mo­bile num­ber and bio­met­ric de­tails. While our bio­met­ric in­for­ma­tion is sup­posed to be safe, with the right soft­ware, it is pos­si­ble that data can be si­phoned be­fore it gets sent to the en­cryp­tion ap­pli­ca­tion, in a mat­ter of a mi­crosec­ond. Fur­ther, these bio­met­ric de­vices are Chi­nese de­vices which are known to have em­bed­ded chips that can be ac­cessed by fraud­sters.”

The risk in­volved with giv­ing out per­sonal de­tails es­pe­cially in­for­ma­tion like name, date of birth, mo­bile num­ber and so on, is that these are ba­sic de­tails re­quired for fi­nan­cial trans­ac­tions as well. “This con­cept of pri­vacy is new in In­dia,” Vi­jayashankar ex­plains. “It has be­come im­por­tant be­cause it is linked to our fi­nan­cial trans­ac­tions and the mo­ment that hap­pens, any­thing be­comes im­por­tant! With digi­ti­sa­tion, pri­vacy is­sues are at the fore­front as vast amounts of in­valu­able data is be­ing col­lated and can be mis­used if it gets to the wrong hands.”

An­other sig­nif­i­cant as­pect of the times we live in is so­cial me­dia. Peo­ple up­load ev­ery­thing, from walk­ing down the aisle to the colour of their bath­room tiles, just for a cou­ple of ‘likes.’ “We are go­ing through the Great In­dian Vom­it­ing Rev­o­lu­tion,” Duggal says. “It is a con­di­tion where we share valu­able in­for­ma­tion rou­tinely and mind­lessly. In­di­ans are un­der im­mense risk be­cause of their reck­less dig­i­tal ac­tiv­i­ties. We have to re­alise that the law clearly states that if data is pro­vided vol­un­tar­ily, one can­not cry foul, so we have to be re­spon­si­ble with the data we give.”

Sneha Hin­docha, a coun­selling psy­chol­o­gist opines that the des­per­a­tion for ac­cep­tance and ap­pre­ci­a­tion is what drives peo­ple to in­ces­santly put up ev­ery as­pect of their lives on­line. “There is a high that peo­ple ex­pe­ri­ence when they share their pho­to­graphs and get ap­pre­ci­ated for it,” says Hin­docha. “What tends to get over­looked are the as­so­ci­ated with it. In­di­vid­u­als should know of the con­se­quences of their ac­tions and draw the line ac­cord­ingly.”

How­ever, it isn’t a one-di­men­sional is­sue. Tech­nol­ogy has man­aged to con­nect us to a whole new vir­tual world, one that of­ten makes us for­get the real world.

“Com­mu­ni­ca­tion and the need for ap­pre­ci­a­tion and ac­cep­tance are fun­da­men­tal as­pects of hu­man life,” says J Agnes Sa­sitha, head of the De­part­ment of So­ci­ol­ogy in Stella Maris Col­lege. “A lot of what we see to­day is re­flec­tive of the chang­ing struc­ture of the fam­ily in mod­ern so­ci­ety. As par­ents are busy and don’t get to spend much time with their chil­dren, it af­fects the so­cial­i­sa­tion process.”

The lack of proper emo­tional sup­port from fam­ily can lead to chil­dren tak­ing inap­pro­pri­ate steps on­line. “When alien­ation takes place, chil­dren feel that so­cial me­dia will fill that void,” ex­plains Sa­sitha. “They are lured by the power of ‘likes’ and will go to any ex­tent to get them. They don’t con­sider if the con­tent they are shar­ing is safe or un­safe, rel­e­vant or ir­rel­e­vant. It is a race to gather most likes, ap­pre­ci­a­tion and grat­i­fi­ca­tion.”

In this bid to be ac­cepted and please, chil­dren, teenagers and adults send in­ti­mate pic­tures to their part­ners. There have been count­less cases where such pho­tos have been mis­used.

“When it comes to send­ing in­ti­mate pho­to­graphs to a part­ner, I would think it is bet­ter to be safe than sorry and not send the pic­tures at all,” Hin­docha says. “But there are peo­ple who are com­fort­able send­ing such pic­tures as they trust the per­son on the other end. But I have had a num­ber of cases where pic­tures have been cir­cu­lated among friends, caus­ing the sender a lot of em­bar­rass­ment and hurt.”

Yet, it is im­pos­si­ble to ig­nore the im­pact that so­cial me­dia has had on our day-to-day in­ter­ac­tions. There are many who use it for busi­ness and fol­low sim­ple steps to safe­guard their pri­vacy.

“So­cial me­dia is a pow­er­ful tool and one that, if tapped ef­fec­tively, can help me with my work,” says Alamelu Annhamalai, an artist in the city. “Since mine is a pub­lic ac­count, I do two sim­ple things to mit­i­gate risks. I do not up­load pho­tos and never spec­ify my lo­ca­tion.”

These are two sim­ple guide­lines that ex­perts too be­lieve will go a long way in pro­tect­ing our data. Fur­ther, they say that giv­ing out de­tails ca­su­ally any­where is to be en­tirely avoided. Ex­perts ad­vise cit­i­zens to use their ra­tio­nal think­ing to mit­i­gate, if not com­pletely elim­i­nate, risk.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.