Blanket monitoring of social media will make us surveillance state: SC Social media hub tender still hangs in balance
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday said blanket monitoring of people’s activities on social media by the government would result in a “surveillance state” as it sought the Centre’s response to a PIL challenging the proposal to create a Social Media Communication Hub (SMCH) on the ground that it was meant to snoop on citizens.
“If there is a 360 degree monitoring of your WhatsApp content, we will become a surveillance state,” Justice D Y Chandrachud said. A bench of CJI Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and Chandrachud, appreciating the urgency of the PIL by Tri- Even
as the government was questioned by the Supreme Court over its plan for blanket surveillance of social media, a decision on the Centre’s proposed Social Media Communication Hub, which led to the PIL, remains deferred to August 20. Sources said there was a broad consensus within the I&B ministry that the conditions laid down in the request for proposal were harsh. The proposal to appoint social media monitors and set up a social media hub had come under fire for its alleged attempt to “snoop” into emails and ‘crawl’ the web looking for ways to influence online audiences through more focused campaigns about government schemes. namool MLA Mohua Moitra, sought the Centre’s response in two weeks. The PIL said monitoring social media activities would be a blatant violation of the right to privacy.
While posting the matter for further hearing on July 30, the bench sought attorney general K K Venugopal’s assistance in the case. The govern- ment had claimed the hub was to track views on various programmes and understand popular perception on schemes. It also claimed that through SMCH, it would attempt to inculcate nationalist feelings among citizens and counter campaigns intended to harm India’s image globally.
Moitra’s counsel, senior ad- vocate A M Singhvi, said the proposed SMCH would become a tool in the hands of a private agency to help the government launch surveillance on citizens’ activities on social media platforms in violation of the right to privacy, which is a part of right to life. “It is a project to create advance surveillance infrastructure in the country,” Singhvi said.
The petition said the tender document stipulated that the successful bidder would be required “to collect digital media chatter from all social media platforms as well as digital platforms like news, and blogs”. The platforms include Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, YouTube, Instagram, Google, LinkedIn, Flickr, Tumblr, Pinterest, Play Store and even emails.