Privacy has become a casualty in the present wired, some say, ‘flat’ world. Every time a person goes to an Internet café he does not realise that the café owner has to keep a register of all the websites he visited and the data he downloaded, for a whole year. For all one knows, on the way to the café, he would have been captured by several cameras, placed strategically at city squares, malls, railway stations and ATMs. Again, he is asked to share a copy of his passport or his driving licence when he makes a purchase of, say, a refrigerator using his credit card.
It is not the government alone which keeps an eye on the citizen. For instance, the direct-to-home television service provider knows exactly which channels one visits and for how long. The amount of data that a private company like Google builds up on its users is mind-boggling. Similarly, the mobile phone companies keep a huge data on their subscribers. They not only know which all numbers a person dialled in a year but they can even give a recording of the conversations. It is true that such records have helped the police to crack several criminal cases but they are also a pointer to the onslaught on privacy that a citizen has to encounter round the clock.
The government routinely collects details of all the bank transactions a person makes. Private and public insurance providers also gather details about the health conditions of their policy holders. Collecting personal information may be unavoidable but in the hands of undesirable elements, such information can be dangerous. As the national intelligence grid has been kept out of the purview of the Right to Information Act, people cannot even find out whether or which government agency has accessed their personal details. All this underscores the urgent need for a law to protect privacy which is key to civilised life.