In our day and age the internet embodies the dynamism that has come to be a part of the life of a great segment of global population. More than twenty-five billion people in the world use the internet, a global virtual network of communication and information exchange, for socialising, running businesses, buying goods and services and enhancing knowledge. There are payment gateways like Paypal, Visa, American Express which facilitate commercial transactions and there are social networking platforms such as Twitter and Facebook for people to socialise with people around the world. Online News portals, blogs, and Open-access journals and repositories are used for accumulating knowledge. In such a context it’s necessary to think of the best possible ways to ensure that the colossal amount of data created by our activities on this space should be protected along with the individuals’ freedom and integrity.
The issues that need attention
The ideal approach that the State should adopt vis-a-vis the internet has been a subject of debate since at least the 1990s. A prominent position in the whole debate emerged when John Perry Barlow wrote “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace” in 1996 which advocated complete independence of the internet from the bounds of State power, proclaiming the internet as the last bastion of free thought, knowledge sharing and expression where the users developed self-regulating practices. The internet users were “forming their own Social Contract” and did not require the force of the government to protect against abuses. The abuses perpetrated by many a government around the world either in the form of extensive dragnet surveillance of people’s metadata, as the NSA revelations have shown, and the outright monitoring of the internet, evident in China, Russia and Iran, to suppress dissent has brought this sentiment and the debate it brings with it to the fore. The debate is further supplemented by the context where the internet has become more expansive and anarchic, embracing ever greater information and sharing them rapidly across the world.
In the period after the 9/11 terrorist attacks the US Federal Government passed the Patriot Act which gave it enormous powers of search and seizure and facilitated surveillance programs under the aegis of the National Security Agency with extensive access to communications over the internet and telecommunications network. The Electronic Frontier Foundation and American Civil Liberties Union reported that the data relating to who people interact with along with the contents of conversations infringed the privacy of individuals who used these networks in a major way, as they could help in creating a portrait of individual persons. However, it’s important to acknowledge that the absence of a uniform, international regime of safeguards that can adequately address both the national security...