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  • Karpura Kanti Nanda & Devika Pattnaik

Right to Privacy: Concerns Vis-a-Vis Social Media


“In a world where everyone shows and tells everything, I value discretion and privacy” With the development and popularity of social networking sites, cybercrimes have immensely increased. It has become necessary for the country to prioritize the issues and make strict laws with the developing technology. Social media is becoming a great interest of individual users especially women and children who are falling prey to the unknown people with whom they mingle through their online registered profile. Nonetheless the friend list or contact list include some unknown friends and sharing of thoughts.

Social media does offer some privacy measures regarding this. Hence, the post would focus on how safe it is to share personal information online, the crimes taking place, issues in it, the laws regarding social media privacy in India and some suggestions regarding the development of such laws.

Right to Privacy

Privacy has been well described “as the condition or the state of being free from public attention to intrusion into or interference with one’s acts or decisions.”1 However, in India whether right to privacy is a fundamental right or not, has always been in controversy. It was held in the case of M.P Sharma vs Satish Chandra2 that right to privacy is not a fundamental right under the constitution.

In Kharak Singh vs state of U.P3, it was also held that “privacy was not a guaranteed constitutional right”. It however, held that Article 21 (right to life) was the repository of residuary personal rights and recognized the common law right to privacy. However, after the Maneka Gandhi case the approach completely changed. In Maneka Gandhi and R.C. Cooper case it was held that freedom and liberty is null and void without right to privacy. Thus, this case saw an advanced degree of judicial activism acting as a Marshall in a new era of expanding dimension of right to life and personal liberty.

Right to Privacy and Social Media

Social media is an internet based form of communication. Many other forms of social media like blogs, micro-blogs, wikis social networking sites, widgets, virtual worlds also exist. But social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Orkut and Myspace have become voguish in the past few years. But in order to use a social networking site and descry other people posts the person has to first create a profile. The main purpose of these social networking sites is to establish a kinship in the virtual world. But little did the users know that this boon was accompanied by crime too.

The concept of cybercrime emerged during 1990’s and has climbed the ladder of success reaching to a whole new level. But it is us who have signed the deal with the devil and now our privacy has been compromised. IP address, key words used in searches, websites visited which seem harmless, from information that we share on social media, to online transactions, to cookies collecting user browser history, to mobile registration- personal details about an individual is engendered by each use of internet. The site instantly records our personal details like in case4.

They do it so because, the more personal information they provide, the more attractive they are to potential advertisers. As a result, cases of identity thefts, sexual predators, unintentional fame, cyber staking and defamation have started to gain focus. Scams such as koobface, who stole personal information of Facebook users and stole it wrongful people, have also been reported. Version 5 of HTML code is reported to provide advertising companies access to users online activities such as texts, photographs, emails and many more.

Usually, youngsters are the ones who easily fall prey. Nowadays, they don’t even hesitate to share their personal details with individuals whom they don’t even know. This happens due to the lack of enough mental maturity and capacity to judge right and wrong. As a result these sexual predators and identity thieves are easily able to hunt them down.

Twitter has itself admitted that they had scanned the phone contacts of their users and imported them onto their website database so as to learn more about their users. The oxymoronic nature of Facebook is seen when it first says that we own all our contents that we post on the Facebook and on the other hand it says that we users grant Facebook to use any IP content that we post in connection to Facebook. People have also been reported of committing suicide5 after their humiliating videos had been uploaded on YouTube.

This lack of lucency of the social networking sites and the day to day crimes taking place in the cyberspace have forced us to critically think what we really want to share and how our information is being handled. Therefore, the privacy policies should be read very carefully before giving our consent.

However, Facebook has helped by introducing options of blocking, reporting, protect etc. Twitter has the option of sharing information only with followers.

Indian Legislation on Social Media Privacy and Data Protection

With the debut of social media, a new term of Internet privacy has come into lime-light. There is no specific legislation on Internet privacy and data protection. However, our constitution has provided Article 21 as a privacy lock which is insufficient to provide adequate protection to the data.

However in the year 2000, legislature made effort to embrace social media privacy issues and currently India’s most comprehensive legal provisions that speaks of privacy on the Internet is the Information Technology Act, 2000. Even though it cannot completely safeguard the privacy, it can dilute it to an extent. Provisions that clearly protect user privacy include Section 43, 66, 66F and 67 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 and also the rules of the Act.

Conclusion and Suggestions

Violation of privacy in India is increasing alarmingly. It is high time India should prioritize privacy and recognize it as fundamental right. However, there are certain flaws which should be eradicated first. Like:-

  1. The application developers should shift from data-centric approach to a consumer-trust centric approach so that the privacy laws are able differentiate as to who they will regulate and what they will protect.

  2. After the SC ruling on the WhatsApp case, it has become very important that the subscribers should be given an option as to whether they want to share their data or not.

  3. The principle of “Datensparsamkeit” (data minimization) from the German privacy legislation, should be adopted

Indian users should be given the option to opt out of specific features instead of a singular ‘I Agree’ button (as introduced by EU Legislation).


By Karpura Kanti Nanda & Devika Pattnaik, KIIT University, Odisha


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