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India's Right To Privacy In Light Of The Recent Pegasus Spyware Incident

The Pegasus spyware scandal has shocked the entire world and raised questions about democratic institutions, the right to privacy, and the freedom of the press and speech. Without the user's knowledge or consent, the Pegasus malware is a potent tool that can access a person's phone and steal all of their information and communications. The spyware was produced by the Israeli cybersecurity company NSO Group, which also sells it to international governments and law enforcement organizations.

One of the nations where the Pegasus spyware is said to have been deployed is India. Some 300 Indians, including journalists, activists, politicians, and government officials, were reportedly potential targets of the malware in July 2021. Widespread indignation and demands for stronger privacy protection in India have resulted from this. This essay will look at how India's right to privacy has been affected by the Pegasus spyware controversy and what has to be done to protect it.

The Right to Privacy in India

The Indian Constitution upholds the fundamental right to privacy as one of the country's basic rights. The Supreme Court of India declared the right to privacy to be a fundamental constitutional right in its landmark Puttaswamy v. Union of India decision in 2017. According to the court, Article 21 of the Constitution's guarantee of the right to life and personal freedom includes the right to privacy as an essential component. The court also acknowledged that the right to privacy is not a given and may be limited in certain situations, such as those involving public safety and national security.

The Indian government has received criticism for its lack of attempts to uphold this right, despite the Supreme Court's recognition of it as a basic right. The government has been charged with violating people's right to privacy multiple times, including the Aadhaar data leak, the WhatsApp spying incident, and the current Pegasus spyware crisis.

Effect of the Pegasus Spyware Scandal on India's Right to Privacy:

Concerns regarding India's right to privacy have been greatly exacerbated by the Pegasus spyware incident. Without the owner's knowledge or approval, spyware is capable of infecting a person's phone and removing all of its data and communications. Personal messages, call history, and even geographical information are included in this. The phone's camera and microphone can also be turned on by the spyware in order to capture the user's surroundings.

There are significant worries about the abuse of power and the infringement of the right to privacy in light of the allegations that the Indian government utilised the Pegasus spyware to target journalists, activists, politicians, and government employees. The use of spyware to target those who oppose the government raises concerns about the commitment of the administration to democratic principles and press and speech freedom.

The Pegasus spyware incident has also brought attention to the need for India to enact stricter data protection regulations. The 2019 Personal Data Protection Bill, which is still pending in Parliament, proposes to control how businesses and governmental organizations gather, store, and use personal data. The bill has drawn criticism for its lack of strength and effectiveness in defending the right to privacy. The measure allows the government to exclude its agencies from the bill's requirements and does not establish a powerful data protection authority.

Concerns regarding the function of technology corporations in preserving the right to privacy have also been sparked by the Pegasus spyware incident. The maker of the spyware, the NSO Group, has come under fire for selling it to governments and law enforcement organizations without the necessary safeguards and monitoring. The business has been charged with breaking international law and supporting violations of human rights.

Measures to Protect India's Right to Privacy:

The Following Measures Can Be Taken To Protect The Right To Privacy In India:

  • Improve the legal structure:
    By passing a thorough data protection law, the Indian government can strengthen the legal environment for privacy protections. The parliament is now debating the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019, which needs to be accelerated and enacted into law as soon as feasible.
  • Enhance enforcement methods:
    The government should make privacy violations more difficult to ignore. Establishing an impartial data protection authority that can look into complaints and impose fines for privacy infractions will help achieve this.
  • Improve transparency:
    The government should make its surveillance practices more transparent. The legal justification for surveillance as well as the volume of requests for surveillance should be made public.
  • Strengthen cybersecurity:
    To prevent hacking efforts and strengthen cybersecurity, the government should work. By making investments in cybersecurity infrastructure, enhancing training and awareness initiatives, and fostering more cooperation between public and private organizations, this can be accomplished.
  • Promote digital literacy:
    The government needs to educate the populace about digital literacy. People may be better able to defend their privacy if they are aware of how their data is being collected, used, and safeguarded.
  • Intensify international collaboration:
    The Indian government has to collaborate with other nations to create global norms for privacy protection. The consistency of privacy regulations across countries and the accountability of multinational corporations for privacy violations can both be improved as a result.

In conclusion, the Pegasus spyware incident has drawn attention to the necessity of more stringent data security regulations and openness regarding Indian government monitoring procedures. Although the proposed Personal Data Protection Bill is a start in the right direction, it needs to be enhanced to guarantee that any type of unauthorized surveillance and data collecting does not violate people's right to privacy. India will only be able to guarantee that it is respecting the values of democracy and individual freedom after that. Written By: Kshitiz Kumar, Shri Jainarayan Mishra P.G. College (University of Lucknow)
Email: [email protected]

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