Privacy means the space of sensitive and personal information of a person or group that concerns that person or group directly. Right to privacy is the preservation of such information from being public or falling in the wrong hands. In this new age of internet, apart from money and intellectual property, the privacy of a person has great importance too. Several information by a huge number of people is available on the internet, mostly for making use of a website or application. Such services based on the internet require some data from the user to provide a better user interface, curate the content accordingly, or to help identify the person. Hence, the right to privacy over internet is an important topic that we must discuss today as India is possibly on its way to introduce the first legislation related to personal data protection.
The websites and services have privacy policies, where they have to declare what is being done with a user’s data. The terms and conditions are another essential part of information sharing, whereby with the help of click wrap and browse wrap agreements, a user permits them to make use of certain information. Hence, the significance of privacy on the internet cannot be denied.
Laws Relating to Privacy Over Internet in India:
It should be noted that India has no separate legislation to protect the privacy of citizens on the internet. But the following sections of the Information Technology Act, 2000 mention it:
- Section 66 E: Under this section, the punishment for violation of privacy is prescribed. However, this does not directly relate to data privacy. The defaulter can be imprisoned up to three years and fined for up to two lakh rupees, or both.
- Section 72: This section relates to the data privacy in a better manner and also includes the term of consent related to publishing or transmitting the data of a person. Breach of privacy under this section is punishable for imprisonment of up to two years or fine up to one lakh rupees, or both.
- Section 69: Under this, the Government is authorised to decrypt or monitor any data that is on the internet or on an electronic device for the objectives like security of the nation, investigation of an offence, etc.
Apart from these, the Information Technology (Reasonable Security Practices and Procedures and Sensitive Personal Data or Information) Rules, 2011 also aims to protect the right to privacy over internet while also defining the scope of personal information and how should it be disclosed or collected.
The Personal Data Protection Bill that was introduced in 2019, implies great deal of significance towards consent of a user and the regulations regarding the use of personal data. However, it is yet to be passed, but it would be interesting to see how the Government intervenes in the bill as it is under assessment and is subject to changes before being enacted.
Cases Related to Right to Privacy in India:
In the case of Kharak Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh, which is a case of 1963, before a 6 Judge Bench of the Supreme Court of India, whereby the rights and limitations of the state police for surveillance and the clash with the fundamental rights of freedom of movement under Article 19 (1) (d) and the right to life and liberty under Article 21 were brought up. The court had said in the judgement that right to privacy is not a guaranteed right.
In a case of 1975, Govind v. State of Madhya Pradesh, the facts were similar as to the case mentioned above and the petitioner questioned the rights of the state police for surveillance after being accused for an offence. The Supreme Court, however gave the similar verdict but directed the police authorities to keep a check on their surveillance methods and change them where required.
Finally, in the case of Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd.) v. Union of India, 2017, the Supreme Court of India, in a 9 Judge Bench judgement, agreed that the right to privacy is a fundamental right which is guaranteed by the Indian Constitution to each citizen.
Recently the issues regarding privacy are associated with apps like Aarogya Setu and Zoom. A petition had been filed recently by Harsh Chugh asking the Court to impose a ban on the Zoom app as it breaches privacy of its users and is subject to any third-party stealing data quite easily as accepted by the founders of the app as well.
Hence, it is important that as active internet users, we need to inhibit the habit of reading privacy policies of apps and also ascertaining the security of a website before sharing or disclosing any piece of vital information on it.
By Anurag Kushwah
 1963 AIR 1295.
 1975 AIR 1378.
 2017 10 S.C.C. 1.