Centre for Internet & Society

A government-appointed expert group today suggested enactment of a law to protect individuals against misuse of information collected through telephone tapping, videography or any other method.

Read the original published in the Business Standard on October 18, 2012.

The group headed by former Delhi High Court Chief Justice A P Shah recommended setting up of a regulatory framework comprising Privacy Commissioners at the Centre and regional levels to deal with privacy issues and mandatory destruction of telephone conversation after a specified period.

As regards the specific issue of phone tapping, it said "interception orders must be specific and all interceptions would only be in force for a period of 60 days and renewed for a period up to 180 days".

The group, set up by Minister of State for Planning Ashwani Kumar in September 2011, suggested that the records of the conversation should be destroyed by security agencies and telephone service providers within stipulated time frame.

"Records of interception must be destroyed by security agencies after six months or nine months and service providers must destroy after two or six months," it said.

The proposed law seeks to protect individuals from misuse of data collected by agencies, whether in private or public sector. It said the data of individuals should be used only for the purpose for which it was collected.

The issues concerning privacy of individuals assume significance in view of the collection of data by multiple agencies, government as well as private, for different purposes. At present, data is being collected under programmes like Aadhar, Know Your Customer (KYC) norms, recordings of telephone conversation, DNA profiling, brain mapping, etc.

The group, Kumar said, "has evaluated what is happening in the other country and what is the constitutional position in India... How imperatives of national security and right to privacy of individual can be harmonised".

Note: The Centre for Internet & Society was part of the expert committee even though it is not explicitly mentioned.