Centre for Internet & Society

Data collection and theft is quite prevalent and there is little an individual can do right now.

Data protection and privacy are the new buzzwords in the corridors of power in India. While a Ministry of Electronics and Technology committee led by retired Supreme Court Justice B N Srikrishna is working on a draft Data Protection Bill, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has come out with its own recommendations regarding privacy, security, and ownership of data in the telecom sector.

How is your data collected?

Every minute you spend online leads to your data being generated, collected and collated somewhere. “There is data that we volunteer. If I create an account for myself on any website I will provide my name, age, banking and so on,” says Amber Sinha, senior programme manager, Centre for Internet and Society.

“Then there is data which gets collected by telecom companies and companies which provide OTT (Over-The-Top) services, like Google Chrome. Much of this data is collected automatically — my browsing history, what links were open, what ads did I click on in Facebook etc. Most websites use trackers and cookies that continue working in the background. Even when you have closed the link and move on to another website, they still continue to collect data about you,” he adds.

What is the method behind this?

“In order to provide a service, there is some data that they need to collect. For example, a cab aggregator has to get my location in order to connect me to nearest cabs. Yet most companies collect data beyond what might be needed. Suppose you are availing an online service which involves a payment aspect. For authentication, an OTP is sent in the form of a text message. The online services will seek permission to read our messages so that they can automatically pull the OTP, saving us the trouble of having to key it in manually. But the system is designed in such a way that the permission they seek is for my entire message box,” explains Amber.

Read the complete article by Rajitha Menon in Deccan Herald published on July 20, 2018. Amber Sinha has been quoted.