Blan­ket mon­i­tor­ing of so­cial me­dia will make us sur­veil­lance state: SC So­cial me­dia hub ten­der still hangs in bal­ance

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - | POLITICS POLICY - @times­group.com

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.

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