Letter to BS: Surveillance must require authorisation from a magistrate

FILE PHOTO: Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Home Minister Rajnath Singh | Photo: PTI
This refers to “Governance over-reach” (December 24). Your editorial drives home the point that safeguards are inadequate while balancing the needs for national security and surveillance. It is a specious argument that if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. On the contrary, it is an unwelcome intrusion of the state in a common man’s life. 

This comes on the heels of a recent tender floated for “sentiment analysis”, and the big tech houses have evinced interest. The timing of the order is suspect, right at the doorstep of the elections. Remarkably, the current BJP dispensation has been able to keep India free from terrorist attacks. It is possible due to effective grassroots policing. Blanket surveillance in other parts of the developed world hasn’t been as effective. 

We should be wary of corporate surveillance — from Google, Amazon, Facebook and its associated companies (WhatsApp and Instagram). Despite their claims of end-to-end encryption, these companies can scoop immensely useful metadata and share them with law enforcement, for targeted advertisements, psychological profiling and manipulation. There is enough anecdotal evidence to encourage users to stay away from social media for positive mental health. 

Abhishek Puri, Mohali
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