The Future of Democracy in the Shadow of Big and Emerging Tech: CCG Essay Series

By Shrutanjaya Bhardwaj and Sangh Rakshita

In the past few years, the interplay between technology and democracy has reached a critical juncture. The untrammelled optimism for technology has now been shadowed by rising concerns over the survival of a meaningful democratic society. With the expanding reach of technology platforms, there have been increasing concerns in democratic societies around the world on the impact of such platforms on democracy and human rights. In this context, increasingly there has been focus on policy issues like  the need for an antitrust framework for digital platforms, platform regulation and free speech, the challenges of fake news, impact of misinformation on elections, invasion of privacy of citizens due to the deployment of emerging tech,  and cybersecurity. This has intensified the quest for optimal policy solutions. We, at the Centre for Communication Governance at National Law University Delhi (CCG), believe that a detailed academic exploration of the relationship between democracy, and big and emerging tech will aid our understanding of the current problems, help contextualise them and highlight potential policy and regulatory responses.

Thus, we bring to you this series of essays—written by experts in the domain—in an attempt to collate contemporary scholarly thought on some of the issues that arise in the context of the interaction of democracy, and big and emerging tech. The essay series is publicly available on the CCG website. We have also announced the release of the essay series on Twitter

Our first essay addresses the basic but critical question: What is ‘Big Tech’? Urvashi Aneja & Angelina Chamuah present a conceptual understanding of the phrase. While ‘Big Tech’ refers to a set of companies, it is certainly not a fixed set; companies become part of this set by exhibiting four traits or “conceptual markers” and—as a corollary—would stop being identified in this category if they were to lose any of the four markers. The first marker is that the company runs a data-centric model and has massive access to consumer data which can be leveraged or exploited. The second marker is that ‘Big Tech’ companies have a vast user base and are “multi-sided platforms that demonstrate strong network effects”. The third and fourth markers are the infrastructural and civic roles of these companies respectively, i.e., they not only control critical societal infrastructure (which is often acquired through lobbying efforts and strategic mergers and acquisitions) but also operate “consumer-facing platforms” which enable them to generate consumer dependence and gain huge power over the flow of information among citizens. It is these four markers that collectively define ‘Big Tech’. [U. Aneja and A. Chamuah, What is Big Tech? Four Conceptual Markers]

Since the power held by Big Tech is not only immense but also self-reinforcing, it endangers market competition, often by hindering other players from entering the market. Should competition law respond to this threat? If yes, how? Alok P. Kumar & Manjushree R.M. explore the purpose behind competition law and find that competition law is concerned not only with consumer protection but also—as evident from a conjoint reading of Articles 14 & 39 of the Indian Constitution—with preventing the concentration of wealth and material resources in a few hands. Seen in this light, the law must strive to protect “the competitive process”. But the present legal framework is too obsolete to achieve that aim. Current understanding of concepts such as ‘relevant market’, ‘hypothetical monopolist’ and ‘abuse of dominance’ is hard to apply to Big Tech companies which operate more on data than on money. The solution, it is proposed, lies in having ex ante regulation of Big Tech rather than a system of only subsequent sanctions through a possible code of conduct created after extensive stakeholder consultations. [A.P. Kumar and Manjushree R.M., Data, Democracy and Dominance: Exploring a New Antitrust Framework for Digital Platforms]

Market dominance and data control give an even greater power to Big Tech companies, i.e., control over the flow of information among citizens. Given the vital link between democracy and flow of information, many have called for increased control over social media with a view to checking misinformation. Rahul Narayan explores what these demands might mean for free speech theory. Could it be (as some suggest) that these demands are “a sign that the erstwhile uncritical liberal devotion to free speech was just hypocrisy”? Traditional free speech theory, Narayan argues, is inadequate to deal with the misinformation problem for two reasons. First, it is premised on protecting individual liberty from the authoritarian actions by governments, “not to control a situation where baseless gossip and slander impact the very basis of society.” Second, the core assumption behind traditional theory—i.e., the possibility of an organic marketplace of ideas where falsehood can be exposed by true speech—breaks down in context of modern era misinformation campaigns. Therefore, some regulation is essential to ensure the prevalence of truth. [R. Narayan, Fake News, Free Speech and Democracy]

Jhalak M. Kakkar and Arpitha Desai examine the context of election misinformation and consider possible misinformation regulatory regimes. Appraising the ideas of self-regulation and state-imposed prohibitions, they suggest that the best way forward for democracy is to strike a balance between the two. This can be achieved if the State focuses on regulating algorithmic transparency rather than the content of the speech—social media companies must be asked to demonstrate that their algorithms do not facilitate amplification of propaganda, to move from behavioural advertising to contextual advertising, and to maintain transparency with respect to funding of political advertising on their platforms. [J.M. Kakkar and A. Desai, Voting out Election Misinformation in India: How should we regulate Big Tech?]

Much like fake news challenges the fundamentals of free speech theory, it also challenges the traditional concepts of international humanitarian law. While disinformation fuels aggression by state and non-state actors in myriad ways, it is often hard to establish liability. Shreya Bose formulates the problem as one of causation: “How could we measure the effect of psychological warfare or disinformation campaigns…?” E.g., the cause-effect relationship is critical in tackling the recruitment of youth by terrorist outfits and the ultimate execution of acts of terror. It is important also in determining liability of state actors that commit acts of aggression against other sovereign states, in exercise of what they perceive—based on received misinformation about an incoming attack—as self-defence. The author helps us make sense of this tricky terrain and argues that Big Tech could play an important role in countering propaganda warfare, just as it does in promoting it. [S. Bose, Disinformation Campaigns in the Age of Hybrid Warfare]

The last two pieces focus attention on real-life, concrete applications of technology by the state. Vrinda Bhandari highlights the use of facial recognition technology (‘FRT’) in law enforcement as another area where the state deploys Big Tech in the name of ‘efficiency’. Current deployment of FRT is constitutionally problematic. There is no legal framework governing the use of FRT in law enforcement. Profiling of citizens as ‘habitual protestors’ has no rational nexus to the aim of crime prevention; rather, it chills the exercise of free speech and assembly rights. Further, FRT deployment is wholly disproportionate, not only because of the well-documented inaccuracy and bias-related problems in the technology, but also because—more fundamentally—“[t]reating all citizens as potential criminals is disproportionate and arbitrary” and “creates a risk of stigmatisation”. The risk of mass real-time surveillance adds to the problem. In light of these concerns, the author suggests a complete moratorium on the use of FRT for the time being. [V. Bhandari, Facial Recognition: Why We Should Worry the Use of Big Tech for Law Enforcement

In the last essay of the series, Malavika Prasad presents a case study of the Pune Smart Sanitation Project, a first-of-its-kind urban sanitation programme which pursues the Smart City Mission (‘SCM’). According to the author, the structure of city governance (through Municipalities) that existed even prior to the advent of the SCM violated the constitutional principle of self-governance. This flaw was only aggravated by the SCM which effectively handed over key aspects of city governance to state corporations. The Pune Project is but a manifestation of the undemocratic nature of this governance structure—it assumes without any justification that ‘efficiency’ and ‘optimisation’ are neutral objectives that ought to be pursued. Prasad finds that in the hunt for efficiency, the design of the Pune Project provides only for collection of data pertaining to users/consumers, hence excluding the marginalised who may not get access to the system in the first place owing to existing barriers. “Efficiency is hardly a neutral objective,” says Prasad, and the state’s emphasis on efficiency over inclusion and participation reflects a problematic political choice. [M. Prasad, The IoT-loaded Smart City and its Democratic Discontents]

We hope that readers will find the essays insightful. As ever, we welcome feedback.

This series is supported by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF) and has been published by the National Law University Delhi Press. We are thankful for their support. 

The Pegasus Hack: A Hark Back to the Wassenaar Arrangement

By Sharngan Aravindakshan

The world’s most popular messaging application, Whatsapp, recently revealed that a significant number of Indians were among the targets of Pegasus, a sophisticated spyware that operates by exploiting a vulnerability in Whatsapp’s video-calling feature. It has also come to light that Whatsapp, working with the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, an academic research organization with a focus on digital threats to civil society, has traced the source of the spyware to NSO Group, an Israeli company well known both for developing and selling hacking and surveillance technology to governments with a questionable record in human rights. Whatsapp’s lawsuit against NSO Group in a federal court in California also specifically alludes to NSO Group’s clients “which include but are not limited to government agencies in the Kingdom of Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Mexico as well as private entities.” The complaint filed by Whatsapp against NSO Group can be accessed here.

In this context, we examine the shortcomings of international efforts in limiting or regulating the transfers or sale of advanced and sophisticated technology to governments that often use it to violate human rights, as well as highlight the often complex and blurred lines between the military and civil use of these technologies by the government.

The Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies (WA) exists for this precise reason. Established in 1996 and voluntary / non-binding in nature[I], its stated mission is “to contribute to regional and international security and stability, by promoting transparency and greater responsibility in transfers of conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies, thus preventing destabilizing accumulations.”[ii] Military advancements across the globe, significant among which were the Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests, rocket tests by India and South Korea and the use of chemical warfare during the Iran-Iraq war, were all catalysts in the formulation of this multilateral attempt to regulate the transfer of advanced technologies capable of being weaponized.[iii] With more and more incidents coming to light of authoritarian regimes utilizing advanced western technology to violate human rights, the WA was amended to bring within its ambit “intrusion software” and “IP network surveillance systems” as well. 

Wassenaar: A General Outline

With a current membership of 42 countries (India being the latest to join in late 2017), the WA is the successor to the cold war-era Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls (COCOM) which had been established by the Western Bloc in order to prevent weapons and technology exports to the Eastern Bloc or what was then known as the Soviet Union.[iv] However, unlike its predecessor, the WA does not target any nation-state, and its members cannot exercise any veto power over other member’s export decisions.[v] Notably, while Russia is a member, Israel and China are not.

The WA lists out the different technologies in the form of “Control Lists” primarily consisting of the “List of Dual-Use Goods and Technologies” or the Basic List, and the “Munitions List”.[vi] The term “dual-use technology” typically refers to technology that can be used for both civilian and military purposes.[vii] The Basic List consists of ten categories[viii]

  • Special Materials and Related Equipment (Category 1); 
  • Materials Processing (Category 2); 
  • Electronics (Category 3); 
  • Computers (Category 4); 
  • Telecommunications (Category 5, Part 1); 
  • Information Security (Category 5, Part 2); 
  • Sensors and Lasers (Category 6); 
  • Navigation and Avionics (Category 7); 
  • Marine (Category 8); 
  • Aerospace and Propulsion (Category 9). 

Additionally, the Basic List also has the Sensitive and Very Sensitive Lists which include technologies covering radiation, submarine technology, advanced radar, etc. 

An outline of the WA’s principles is provided in its Guidelines & Procedures, including the Initial Elements. Typically, participating countries enforce controls on transfer of the listed items by enacting domestic legislation requiring licenses for export of these items and are also expected to ensure that the exports “do not contribute to the development or enhancement of military capabilities which undermine these goals, and are not diverted to support such capabilities.[ix]

While the Guidelines & Procedures document does not expressly proscribe the export of the specified items to non-WA countries, members are expected to notify other participants twice a year if a license under the Dual List is denied for export to any non-WA country.[x]

Amid concerns of violation of civil liberties

Unlike conventional weapons, cyberspace and information technology is one of those sectors where the government does not yet have a monopoly in expertise. In what can only be termed a “cyber-arms race”, it would be fair to say that most governments are even now busily acquiring technology from private companies to enhance their cyber-capacity, which includes surveillance technology for intelligence-gathering efforts. This, by itself, is plain real-politik.

However, amid this weaponization of the cyberspace, there were growing concerns that this technology was being purchased by authoritarian or repressive governments for use against their citizens. For instance, Eagle, monitoring technology owned by Amesys (a unit of the French firm Bull SA), Boeing Co.’s internet-filtering Narus, and China’s ZTE Corp. all contributed to the surveillance efforts by Col. Gaddafi’s regime in Libya. Surveillance technology equipment sold by Siemens AG and maintained by Nokia Siemens Networks were used against human rights activists in Bahrain. These instances, as part of a wider pattern that came to the spotlight, galvanized the WA countries in 2013 to include “intrusion software” and “IP network surveillance systems” in the Control List to attempt to limit the transfer of these technologies to known repressive regimes. 

Unexpected Consequences

The 2013 Amendment to the Control Lists was the subject of severe criticism by tech companies and civil society groups across the board. While the intention behind it was recognized as laudable, the terms “intrusion software” and “IP network surveillance system” were widely viewed as over-broad and having the unintended consequence of looping in both legitimate as well as illegitimate use of technology. The problems pointed out by cybersecurity experts are manifold and are a result of a misunderstanding of how cybersecurity works.

The inclusion of these terms, which was meant to regulate surveillance based on computer codes / programmes, also has the consequence of bringing within its ambit legitimate and often beneficial uses of these technologies, including even antivirus technology according to one view. Cybersecurity research and development often involves making use of “zero-day exploits” or vulnerabilities in the developed software, which when discovered and reported by any “bounty hunter”, is typically bought by the company owning the software. This helps the company immediately develop a “patch” for the reported vulnerability. These transactions are often necessarily cross-border. Experts complained that if directly transposed to domestic law, the changes would have a chilling effect on the vital exchange of information and research in this area, which was a major hurdle for advances in cybersecurity, making cyberspace globally less safer. A prime example is HewlettPackard’s (HP)  withdrawal from Pwn2Own—a computer hacking contest held annually at the PacSecWest security conference where contestants are challenged to hack into / exploit vulnerabilities on widely used software. HP, which sponsored the event, was forced to withdraw in 2015 citing the “complexity in obtaining real-time import /export licenses in countries that participate in the Wassenaar Arrangement”, among others. The member nation in this case was Japan.

After facing fierce opposition on its home soil, the United States decided to not implement the WA amendment and instead, decided to argue for a reversal at the next Plenary session of the WA, which failed. Other nations, including the EU and Japan have implemented the WA amendment export controls with varying degrees of success.

The Pegasus Hack, India and the Wassenaar

Considering many of the Indians identified as victims of the Pegasus hack were either journalists or human rights activists, with many of them being associated with the highly-contentious Bhima-Koregaon case, speculation is rife that the Indian government is among those purchasing and utilizing this kind of advanced surveillance technology to spy on its own citizens. Adding this to the NSO Group’s public statement that its “sole purpose” is to “provide technology to licensed government intelligence and law enforcement agencies to help them fight terrorism and serious crime”, it appears there are credible allegations that the Indian government was involved in the hack. The government’s evasiveness in responding and insistence on so-called “standard operating procedures” having been followed are less than reassuring.

While India’s entry to the WA as its 42nd member in 2018 has certainly elevated its status in the international arms control regime by granting it access to three of the world’s four main arms-control regimes (the others being the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group / NSG, the Missile Technology Control Group / MTCR and the Australia Group), the Pegasus Hack incident and the apparent connection to the Indian government shows us that its commitment to the principles underlying the WA is doubtful. The purpose of the inclusion of “intrusion software” and “IP network surveillance system” in the WA’s Control Lists by way of the 2013 Amendment, no matter their unintended consequences for legitimate uses of such technology, was to prevent governmental purchases exactly like this one. Hence, even though the WA does not prohibit the purchase of any surveillance technology from a non-member, the Pegasus incident arguably, is still a serious detraction from India’s commitment to the WA, even if not an explicit violation.

Military Cyber-Capability Vs Law Enforcement Cyber-Capability

Given what we know so far, it appears that highly sophisticated surveillance technology has also come into the hands of local law enforcement agencies. Had it been disclosed that the Pegasus software was being utilized by a military wing against external enemies, by, say, even the newly created Defence Cyber Agency, it would have probably caused fewer ripples. In fact, it might even have come off as reassuring evidence of the country’s advanced cyber-capabilities. However, the idea of such advanced, sophisticated technologies at the easy disposal of local law enforcement agencies is cause for worry. This is because while traditionally the domain of the military is external, the domain of law enforcement agencies is internal, i.e., the citizenry. There is tremendous scope for misuse by such authorities, including increased targeting of minorities. The recent incident of police officials in Hyderabad randomly collecting biometric data including their fingerprints and clicking people’s pictures only exacerbates this point. Even abroad, there already exist on-going efforts to limit the use of surveillance technologies by local law enforcement such as the police.

The conflation of technology use by both military and civil agencies  is a problem that is created in part at least, by the complex and often dual-use nature of technology. While dual use technology is recognized by the WA, this problem is not one that it is able to solve. As explained above, dual use technology is technology that can be used for both civil and military purposes. The demands of real-politik, increase in cyber-terrorism and the manifold ways in which a nation’s security can be compromised in cyberspace necessitate any government in today’s world to increase and improve its cyber-military-capacity by acquiring such technology. After all, a government that acquires surveillance technology undoubtedly increases the effectiveness of its intelligence gathering and ergo, its security efforts. But at the same time, the government also acquires the power to simultaneously spy on its own citizens, which can easily cascade into more targeted violations. 

Governments must resist the impulse to turn such technology on its own citizens. In the Indian scenario, citizens have been granted a ring of protection by way of the Puttaswamy judgement, which explicitly recognizes their right to privacy as a fundamental right. Interception and surveillance by the government while currently limited by laid-down protocols, are not regulated by any dedicated law. While there are calls for urgent legislation on the subject, few deal with the technology procurement processes involved. It has also now emerged that Chhattisgarh’s State Government has set up a panel to look into allegations that that NSO officials had a meeting with the state police a few years ago. This raises questions of oversight in the relevant authorities’ public procurement processes, apart from their legal authority to actually carry out domestic surveillance by exploiting zero-day vulnerabilities.  It is now becoming evident that any law dealing with surveillance will need to ensure transparency and accountability in the procurement of and use of the different kinds of invasive technology adopted by Central or State authorities to carry out such surveillance. 


[i]A Guide to the Wassenaar Arrangement, Daryl Kimball, Arms Control Association, December 9, 2013, https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/wassenaar, last accessed on November 27, 2019.

[ii]Ibid.

[iii]Data, Interrupted: Regulating Digital Surveillance Exports, Tim Maurerand Jonathan Diamond, November 24, 2015, World Politics Review.

[iv]Wassenaar Arrangement: The Case of India’s Membership, Rajeswari P. Rajagopalan and Arka Biswas, , ORF Occasional Paper #92 p.3, OBSERVER RESEARCH FOUNDATION, May 5, 2016, http://www.orfonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/ORF-Occasional-Paper_92.pdf, last accessed on November 27, 2019.

[v]Ibid, p. 3

[vi]“List of Dual-Use Goods and Technologies And Munitions List,” The Wassenaar Arrangement, available at https://www.wassenaar.org/public-documents/, last accessed on November 27, 2019. 

[vii]Article 2(1), Proposal for a REGULATION OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL setting up a Union regime for the control of exports, transfer, brokering, technical assistance and transit of dual-use items (recast), European Commission, September 28th, 2016, http://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/docs/2016/september/tradoc_154976.pdf, last accessed on November 27, 2019. 

[viii]supra note vi.

[ix]Guidelines & Procedures, including the Initial Elements, The Wassenaar Arrangement, December, 2016, http://www.wassenaar.org/wp- content/uploads/2016/12/Guidelines-and-procedures-including-the-Initial-Elements-2016.pdf, last accessed on November 27, 2019.

[x]Articles V(1) & (2), Guidelines & Procedures, including the Initial Elements, The Wassenaar Arrangement, December, 2016, https://www.wassenaar.org/public-documents/, last accessed on November 27, 2019.

[September 30-October 7] CCG’s Week in Review Curated News in Information Law and Policy

Huawei finds support from Indian telcos in the 5G rollout as PayPal withdrew from Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency project; Foreign Portfolio Investors moved MeitY against in the Data Protection Bill; the CJEU rules against Facebook in case relating to takedown of content globally; and Karnataka joins list of states considering implementing NRC to remove illegal immigrants – presenting this week’s most important developments in law, tech and national security.

Digital India

  • [Sep 30] Why the imminent global economic slowdown is a growth opportunity for Indian IT services firms, Tech Circle report.
  • [Sep 30] Norms tightened for IT items procurement for schools, The Hindu report.
  • [Oct 1] Govt runs full throttle towards AI, but tech giants want to upskill bureaucrats first, Analytics India Magazine report.
  • [Oct 3] – presenting this week’s most important developments in law, tech and national security. MeitY launches smart-board for effective monitoring of the key programmes, The Economic Times report.
  • [Oct 3] “Use human not artificial intelligence…” to keep a tab on illegal constructions: Court to Mumbai civic body, NDTV report.
  • [Oct 3] India took 3 big productivity leaps: Nilekani, Livemint report.
  • [Oct 4] MeitY to push for more sops to lure electronic makers, The Economic Times report; Inc42 report.
  • [Oct 4] Core philosophy of Digital India embedded in Gandhian values: Ravi Shankar Prasad, Financial Express report.
  • [Oct 4] How can India leverage its data footprint? Experts weigh in at the India Economic Summit, Quartz report.
  • [Oct 4] Indians think jobs would be easy to find despite automation: WEF, Tech Circle report.
  • [Oct 4] Telangana govt adopts new framework to use drones for last-mile delivery, The Economic Times report.
  • [Oct 5] Want to see ‘Assembled in India’ on an iPhone: Ravi Shankar Prasad, The Economic Times report.
  • [Oct 6] Home market gets attractive for India’s IT giants, The Economic Times report.

Internet Governance

  • [Oct 2] India Govt requests maximum social media content takedowns in the world, Inc42 report; Tech Circle report.
  • [Oct 3] Facebook can be forced to delete defamatory content worldwide, top EU court rules, Politico EU report.
  • [Oct 4] EU ruling may spell trouble for Facebook in India, The Economic Times report.
  • [Oct 4] TikTok, TikTok… the clock is ticking on the question whether ByteDance pays its content creators, ET Tech report.
  • [Oct 6] Why data localization triggers a heated debate, The Economic Times report.
  • [Oct 7] Sensitive Indian govt data must be stored locally, Outlook report.

Data Protection and Privacy

  • [Sep 30] FPIs move MeitY against data bill, seek exemption, ET markets report, Inc42 report; Financial Express report.
  • [Oct 1] United States: CCPA exception approved by California legislature, Mondaq.com report.
  • [Oct 1] Privacy is gone, what we need is regulation, says Infosys Kris Gopalakrishnana, News18 report.
  • [Oct 1] Europe’s top court says active consent is needed for tracking cookies, Tech Crunch report.
  • [Oct 3] Turkey fines Facebook $282,000 over data privacy breach, Deccan Herald report.

Free Speech

  • [Oct 1] Singapore’s ‘fake news’ law to come into force Wednesday, but rights group worry it could stifle free speech, The Japan Times report.
  • [Oct 2] Minister says Singapore’s fake news law is about ‘enabling’ free speech, CNBC report.
  • [Oct 3] Hong Kong protests: Authorities to announce face mask ban, BBC News report.
  • [Oct 3] ECHR: Holocaust denial is not protected free speech, ASIL brief.
  • [Oct 4] FIR against Mani Ratnam, Adoor and 47 others who wrote to Modi on communal violence, The News Minute report; Times Now report.
  • [Oct 5] UN asks Malaysia to repeal laws curbing freedom of speech, The New Indian Express report.
  • [Oct 6] When will our varsities get freedom of expression: PC, Deccan Herald report.
  • [Oct 6] UK Government to make university students sign contracts limiting speech and behavior, The Times report.
  • [Oct 7] FIR on Adoor and others condemned, The Telegraph report.

Aadhaar, Digital IDs

  • [Sep 30] Plea in SC seeking linking of social media accounts with Aadhaar to check fake news, The Economic Times report.
  • [Oct 1] Why another omnibus national ID card?, The Hindu Business Line report.
  • [Oct 2] ‘Kenyan court process better than SC’s approach to Aadhaar challenge’: V Anand, who testified against biometric project, LiveLaw report.
  • [Oct 3] Why Aadhaar is a stumbling block in Modi govt’s flagship maternity scheme, The Print report.
  • [Oct 4] Parliament panel to review Aadhaar authority functioning, data security, NDTV report.
  • [Oct 5] Could Aahdaar linking stop GST frauds?, Financial Express report.
  • [Oct 6] Call for liquor sale-Aadhaar linking, The New Indian Express report.

Digital Payments, Fintech

  • [Oct 7] Vision cash-lite: A billion UPI transactions is not enough, Financial Express report.

Cryptocurrencies

  • [Oct 1] US SEC fines crypto company Block.one for unregistered ICO, Medianama report.
  • [Oct 1] South Korean Court issues landmark decision on crypto exchange hacking, Coin Desk report.
  • [Oct 2] The world’s most used cryptocurrency isn’t bitcoin, ET Markets report.
  • [Oct 2] Offline transactions: the final frontier for global crypto adoption, Coin Telegraph report.
  • [Oct 3] Betting on bitcoin prices may soon be deemed illegal gambling, The Economist report.
  • [Oct 3] Japan’s financial regulator issues draft guidelines for funds investing in crypto, Coin Desk report.
  • [Oct 3] Hackers launch widespread botnet attack on crypto wallets using cheap Russian malware, Coin Desk report.
  • [Oct 4] State-backed crypto exchange in Venezuela launches new crypto debit cards, Decrypt report.
  • [Oct 4] PayPal withdraws from Facebook-led Libra crypto project, Coin Desk report.
  • [Oct 5] Russia regulates digital rights, advances other crypto-related bills, Bitcoin.com report.
  • [Oct 5] Hong Kong regulates crypto funds, Decrypt report.

Cybersecurity and Cybercrime

  • [Sep 30] Legit-looking iPhone lightening cables that hack you will be mass produced and sold, Vice report.
  • [Sep 30] Blackberry launches new cybersecurity development labs, Infosecurity Mgazine report.
  • [Oct 1] Cybersecurity experts warn that these 7 emerging technologies will make it easier for hackers to do their jobs, Business Insider report.
  • [Oct 1] US government confirms new aircraft cybersecurity move amid terrorism fears, Forbes report.
  • [Oct 2] ASEAN unites to fight back on cyber crime, GovInsider report; Asia One report.
  • [Oct 2] Adopting AI: the new cybersecurity playbook, TechRadar Pro report.
  • [Oct 4] US-UK Data Access Agreement, signed on Oct 3, is an executive agreement under the CLOUD Act, Medianama report.
  • [Oct 4] The lack of cybersecurity talent is ‘a  national security threat,’ says DHS official, Tech Crunch report.
  • [Oct 4] Millions of Android phones are vulnerable to Israeli surveillance dealer attack, Forbes report; NDTV report.
  • [Oct 4] IoT devices, cloud solutions soft target for cybercriminals: Symantec, Tech Circle report.
  • [Oct 6] 7 cybersecurity threats that can sneak up on you, Wired report.
  • [Oct 6] No one could prevent another ‘WannaCry-style’ attack, says DHS official, Tech Crunch report.
  • [Oct 7] Indian firms rely more on automation for cybersecurity: Report, ET Tech report.

Cyberwarfare

  • [Oct 2] New ASEAN committee to implement norms for countries behaviour in cyberspace, CNA report.

Tech and National Security

  • [Sep 30] IAF ready for Balakot-type strike, says new chief Bhadauria, The Hindu report; Times of India report.
  • [Sep 30] Naval variant of LCA Tejas achieves another milestone during its test flight, Livemint report.
  • [Sep 30] SAAB wants to offer Gripen at half of Rafale cost, full tech transfer, The Print report.
  • [Sep 30] Rajnath harps on ‘second strike capability’, The Shillong Times report.
  • [Oct 1] EAM Jaishankar defends India’s S-400 missile system purchase from Russia as US sanctions threat, International Business Times report.
  • [Oct 1] SC for balance between liberty, national security, Hindustan Times report.
  • [Oct 2] Startups have it easy for defence deals up to Rs. 150 cr, ET Rise report, Swarajya Magazine report.
  • [Oct 3] Huawei-wary US puts more pressure on India, offers alternatives to data localization, The Economic Times report.
  • [Oct 4] India-Russia missile deal: What is CAATSA law and its implications?, Jagran Josh report.
  • [Oct 4] Army inducts Israeli ‘tank killers’ till DRDO develops new ones, Defence Aviation post report.
  • [Oct 4] China, Russia deepen technological ties, Defense One report.
  • [Oct 4] Will not be afraid of taking decisions for fear of attracting corruption complaints: Rajnath Singh, New Indian Express report.
  • [Oct 4] At conclave with naval chiefs of 10 countries, NSA Ajit Doval floats an idea, Hindustan Times report.
  • [Oct 6] Pathankot airbase to finally get enhanced security, The Economic Times report.
  • [Oct 6] rafale with Meteor and Scalp missiles will give India unrivalled combat capability: MBDA, The Economic Times report.
  • [Oct 7] India, Bangladesh sign MoU for setting up a coastal surveillance radar in Bangladesh, The Economic Times report; Decaan Herald report.
  • [Oct 7] Indian operated T-90 tanks to become Russian army’s main battle tank, EurAsian Times report.
  • [Oct 7] IAF’s Sukhois to get more advanced avionics, radar, Defence Aviation post report.

Tech and Law Enforcement

  • [Sep 30] TMC MP Mahua Mitra wants to be impleaded in the WhatsApp traceability case, Medianama report; The Economic Times report.
  • [Oct 1] Role of GIS and emerging technologies in crime detection and prevention, Geospatial World.net report.
  • [Oct 2] TRAI to take more time on OTT norms; lawful interception, security issue now in focus, The Economic Times report.
  • [Oct 2[ China invents super surveillance camera that can spot someone from a crowd of thousands, The Independent report.
  • [Oct 4] ‘Don’t introduce end-to-end encryption,’ UK, US and Australia ask Facebook in an open letter, Medianama report.
  • [Oct 4] Battling new-age cyber threats: Kerala Police leads the way, The Week report.
  • [Oct 7] India govt bid to WhatsApp decryption gets push as UK,US, Australia rally support, Entrackr report.

Tech and Elections

  • [Oct 1] WhatsApp was extensively exploited during 2019 elections in India: Report, Firstpost report.
  • [Oct 3] A national security problem without a parallel in American democracy, Defense One report.

Internal Security: J&K

  • [Sep 30] BDC polls across Jammu, Kashmir, Ladakh on Oct 24, The Economic Times report.
  • [Sep 30] India ‘invaded and occupied Kashmir, says Malaysian PM at UN General Assembly, The Hindu report.
  • [Sep 30] J&K police stations to have CCTV camera surveillance, News18 report.
  • [Oct 1] 5 judge Supreme court bench to hear multiple pleas on Article 370, Kashmir lockdown today, India Today report.
  • [Oct 1] India’s stand clear on Kashmir: won’t accept third-party mediation, India Today report.
  • [Oct 1] J&K directs officials to ensure all schools reopen by Thursday, NDTV report.
  • [Oct 2]] ‘Depressed, frightened’: Minors held in Kashmir crackdown, Al Jazeera report.
  • [Oct 3] J&K: When the counting of the dead came to a halt, The Hindu report.
  • [Oct 3] High schools open in Kashmir, students missing, The Economic Times report.
  • [Oct 3] Jaishanakar reiterates India’s claim over Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, The Hindu report.
  • [Oct 3] Normalcy prevails in Jammu and Kashmir, DD News report.
  • [Oct 3] Kashmiri leaders will be released one by one, India Today report.
  • [Oct 4] India slams Turkey, Malaysia remarks on J&K, The Hindu report.
  • [Oct 5] India’s clampdown hits Kashmir’s Silicon Valley, The Economic Times report.
  • [Oct 5] Traffic cop among 14 injured in grenade attack in South Kashmir, NDTV report; The Economic Times report.
  • [Oct 6] Kashmir situation normal, people happy with Article 370 abrogation: Prkash Javadekar, Times of India report.
  • [Oct 7] Kashmir residents say police forcibly taking over their homes for CRPF troops, Huffpost India report.

Internal Security: Northeast/ NRC

  • [Sep 30] Giving total control of Assam Rifles to MHA will adversely impact vigil: Army to Govt, The Economic Times report.
  • [Sep 30] NRC list impact: Assam’s foreigner tribunals to have 1,600 on contract, The Economic Times report.
  • [Sep 30] Assam NRC: Case against Wipro for rule violation, The Hindu report; News18 report; Scroll.in report.
  • [Sep 30] Hindu outfits demand NRC in Karnataka, Deccan Chronicle report; The Hindustan Times report.
  • [Oct 1] Centre extends AFPSA in three districts of Arunachal Pradesh for six months, ANI News report.
  • [Oct 1] Assam’s NRC: law schools launch legal aid clinic for excluded people, The Hindu report; Times of India report; The Wire report.
  • [Oct 1] Amit Shah in Kolkata: NRC to be implemented in West Bengal, infiltrators will be evicted, The Economic Times report.
  • [Oct 1] US Congress panel to focus on Kashmir, Assam, NRC in hearing on human rights in South Asia, News18 report.
  • [Oct 1] NRC must for national security; will be implemented: Amit Shah, The Hindu Business Line report.
  • [Oct 2] Bengali Hindu women not on NRC pin their hope on promise of another list, citizenship bill, The Print report.
  • [Oct 3] Citizenship Amendment Bill has become necessity for those left out of NRC: Assam BJP president Ranjeet Das, The Economic Times report.
  • [Oct 3] BJP govt in Karnataka mulling NRC to identify illegal migrants, The Economic Times report.
  • [Oct 3] Explained: Why Amit Shah wants to amend the Citizenship Act before undertaking countrywide NRC, The Indian Express report.
  • [Oct 4] Duplicating NPR, NRC to sharpen polarization: CPM, Deccan Herald report.
  • [Oct 5] We were told NRC India’s internal issue: Bangladesh, Livemint report.
  • [Oct 6] Prasanna calls NRC ‘unjust law’, The New Indian Express report.

National Security Institutions

  • [Sep 30] CRPF ‘denied’ ration cash: Govt must stop ‘second-class’ treatment. The Quint report.
  • [Oct 1] Army calls out ‘prejudiced’ foreign report on ‘torture’, refutes claim, Republic World report.
  • [Oct 2] India has no extraterritorial ambition, will fulfill regional and global security obligations: Bipin Rawat, The Economic Times report.

More on Huawei, 5G

  • [Sep 30] Norway open to Huawei supplying 5G equipment, Forbes report.
  • [Sep 30] Airtel deploys 100 hops of Huawei’s 5G technology, The Economic Times report.
  • [Oct 1] America’s answer to Huawei, Foreign Policy report; Tech Circle report.
  • [Oct 1] Huawei buys access to UK innovation with Oxford stake, Financial Times report.
  • [Oct 3] India to take bilateral approach on issues faced by other countries with China: Jaishankar, The Hindu report.
  • [Oct 4] Bharti Chairman Sunil Mittal says India should allow Huawei in 5G, The Economic Times report
  • [Oct 6] 5G rollout: Huawei finds support from telecom industry, Financial Express report.

Emerging Tech: AI, Facial Recognition

  • [Sep 30] Bengaluru set to roll out AI-based traffic solution at all signals, Entrackr report.
  • [Sep 1] AI is being used to diagnose disease and design new drugs, Forbes report.
  • [Oct 1] Only 10 jobs created for every 100 jobs taken away by AI, The Economic Times report.
  • [Oct 2]Emerging tech is helping companies grow revenues 2x: report, ET Tech report.
  • [Oct 2] Google using dubious tactics to target people with ‘darker skin’ in facial recognition project: sources, Daily News report.
  • [Oct 2] Three problems posed by deepfakes that technology won’t solve, MIT Technology Review report.
  • [Oct 3] Getting a new mobile number in China will involve a facial recognition test, Quartz report.
  • [Oct 4] Google contractors targeting homeless people, college students to collect their facial recognition data: Report, Medianama report.
  • [Oct 4] More jobs will be created than are lost from the IA revolution: WEF AI Head, Livemint report.
  • [Oct 6] IIT-Guwahati develops AI-based tool for electric vehicle motor, Livemint report.
  • [Oct 7] Even if China misuses AI tech, Satya Nadella thinks blocking China’s AI research is a bad idea, India Times report.

Big Tech

  • [Oct 3] Dial P for privacy: Google has three new features for users, Times of India report.

Opinions and Analyses

  • [Sep 26] Richard Stengel, Time, We’re in the middle of a global disinformation war. Here’s what we need to do to win.
  • [Sep 29] Ilker Koksal, Forbes, The shift toward decentralized finance: Why are financial firms turning to crypto?
  • [Sep 30] Nistula Hebbar, The Hindu, Govt. views grassroots development in Kashmir as biggest hope for peace.
  • [Sep 30] Simone McCarthy, South China Morning Post, Could China’s strict cyber controls gain international acceptance?
  • [Sep 30] Nele Achten, Lawfare blog, New UN Debate on cybersecurity in the context of international security.
  • [Sep 30[ Dexter Fergie, Defense One, How ‘national security’ took over America.
  • [Sep 30] Bonnie Girard, The Diplomat, A firsrhand account of Huawei’s PR drive.
  • [Oct 1] The Economic Times, Rafale: Past tense but furture perfect.
  • [Oct 1] Simon Chandler, Forbes, AI has become a tool for classifying and ranking people.
  • [Oct 2] Ajay Batra, Business World, Rethink India! – MMRCA, ESDM & Data Privacy Policy.
  • [Oct 2] Carisa Nietsche, National Interest, Why Europe won’t combat Huawei’s Trojan tech.
  • [Oct 3] Aruna Sharma, Financial Express, The digital way: growth with welfare.
  • [Oct 3] Alok Prasanna Kumar, Medianama, When it comes to Netflix, the Government of India has no chill.
  • [Oct 3] Fredrik Bussler, Forbes, Why we need crypto for good.
  • [Oct 3] Panos Mourdoukoutas, Forbes, India changed the game in Kashmir – Now what?
  • [Oct 3] Grant Wyeth, The Diplomat, The NRC and India’s unfinished partition.
  • [Oct 3] Zak Doffman, Forbes, Is Huawei’s worst Google nightmare coming true?
  • [Oct 4] Oren Yunger, Tech Crunch, Cybersecurity is a bubble, but it’s not ready to burst.
  • [Oct 4] Minakshi Buragohain, Indian Express, NRS: Supporters and opposers must engage each other with empathy.
  • [Oct 4] Frank Ready, Law.com, 27 countries agreed on ‘acceptable’ cyberspace behavior. Now comes the hard part.
  • [Oct 4] Samir Saran, World economic Forum (blog), 3 reasons why data is not the new oil and why this matters to India.
  • [Oct 4] Andrew Marantz, The New York Times, Free Speech is killing us.
  • [Oct 4] Financial Times editorial, ECJ ruling risks for freedom of speech online.
  • [Oct 4] George Kamis, GCN, Digital transformation requires a modern approach to cybersecurity.
  • [Oct 4] Naomi Xu Elegant and Grady McGregor, Fortune, Hong King’s mask ban pits anonymity against the surveillance state.
  • [Oct 4] Prashanth Parameswaran, The Diplomat, What’s behind the new US-ASEAN cyber dialogue?
  • [Oct 5] Huong Le Thu, The Strategist, Cybersecurity and geopolitics: why Southeast Asia is wary of a Huawei ban.
  • [Oct 5] Hannah Devlin, The Guardian, We are hurtling towards a surveillance state: the rise of facial recognition technology.
  • [Oct 5] PV Navaneethakrishnan, The Hindu Why no takers? (for ME/M.Tech programmes).
  • [Oct 6] Aakar Patel, Times of India blog, Cases against PC, letter-writing celebs show liberties are at risk.
  • [Oct 6] Suhasini Haidar, The Hindu, Explained: How ill purchases from Russia affect India-US ties?
  • [Oct 6] Sumit Chakraberty, Livemint, Evolution of business models in the era of privacy by design.
  • [Oct 6] Spy’s Eye, Outlook, Insider threat management.
  • [Oct 6] Roger Marshall, Deccan Herald, Big oil, Big Data and the shape of water.
  • [Oct 6] Neil Chatterjee, Fortune, The power grid is evolving. Cybersecurity  must too.
  • [Oct 7] Scott W Pink, Modaq.com, EU: What is GDPR and CCPA and how does it impact blockchain?
  • [Oct 7] GN Devy, The Telegraph, Has India slid into an irreversible Talibanization of the mind?
  • [Oct 7] Susan Ariel Aaronson, South China Morning Post, The Trump administration’s approach to AI is not that smart: it’s about cooperation, not domination.

[July 8-15] CCG’s Week in Review: Curated News in Information Law and Policy

The Parliament passed the Aadhaar Amendment Bill, expected to have a far-reaching impact on data sharing with private companies and State Governments; France rolled out a new “digital tax” for Big Tech, Facebook slapped with a massive $5bn fine by the US FTC, while uncertainty over Huawei’s inclusion in India’s 5G trials deepens  — presenting this week’s most important developments in law and tech.

In focus this week: opinions and analyses of the Defence Budget for 2019-20.

Aadhaar

  • [July 8] Parliament passes Aadhaar amendment bill, The Hindu Business Line report.
  • [July 8] RS clears bill on voluntary use of Aadhaar as ID proof, Live Mint report.
  • [July 8] Techie moves Madras High Court assailing compulsory linking of Aadhaar with Universal Account Number (UAN) to avail EPFO pension, The Economic Times report.
  • [July 9] You are not bound to share Aadhaar data with schools, banks and telcos, DNA India report.
  • [July 9] ‘Ordinance on Aadhaar use doesn’t survive as House has cleared the Bill’: Centre tells SC, The Hindu report.
  • [July 10] Aadhaar Bill passage in Parliament: New clause helps secure non-NDA votes, The Economic Times report.
  • [July 11] PAN not linked to Aadhaar will become invalid from September, Business Standard report.
  • [July 11] Aadhaar amendments: New clause to allow use of Aadhaar data for state schemes, Live Mint report.
  • [July 11] Amendment: no Aadhaar for mobile wallet firms, The Economic Times report.
  • [July 11] All your Aadhaar fears are coming true in Assam, HuffPost India report.
  • [July 13] Rajya Sabha passes Aadhaar amendment Bill, allows to file complaint in case of security breach, India Today report.
  • [July 14] You may soon have to pay Rs. 10,000 as fine for entering wrong Aadhaar number for transactions, New 18 report.

Free Speech

  • [July 9] Twitter backs off broad limits on ‘Dehumanizing Speech’, The New York Times report.
  • [July 10] TikTok influencers charged for hate speech and attempting to incite communal violence, Business Insider report.
  • [July 13] White House Social Media recap, National Public Radio report, CNN report, The New York Times report, Engadget report. The Verge report.
  • [July 13] FIRs against 10 for poems that try to ‘hinder NRC’ in Assam, Times of India report.
  • [July 15] RSS wing calls for TikTok, Helo ban, The Economic Times report.

Data Protection

  • [July 8] Indian parliament members call for Data Protection Bill and TikTok ban, Inc42 report.
  • [July 8] British Airways fined record 183 million for data breach involving 500,000 customers: report, Medianama report, BBC report.
  • [July 9] Digital data protection to be a fundamental right in Brazil as amendment to constitution is approved, Medianama report.
  • [July 12] Not ‘Okay Google’: Firms admits that workers listen to audio from Assistant, Home, Medianama report, Fox News report, VRT News report.
  • [July 12] Google data breach faces review by Irish privacy watchdog, Bloomberg report.
  • [July 13] Facebook fined $ 5 billion by US regulators over privacy and data protection lapses, News 18 report, The Hindu Business Line report.
  • [July 13] Indian Govt is selling vehicle owner data to companies and citizens don’t have a clue, Inc42 report, Entrackr report.
  • [July 15] Data protection law must be the same for both private and government players, The New Indian Express report.

Digital India

  • [July 15] PMO panel seeks multinational companies’ inputs on making India electronics hub, ET Telecom report.

Data Localisation and E-Commerce

  • [July 11] Gautam Adani woos Amazon and Google with Indian data hubs, ET Telecom report.
  • [July 9] A tug of war hots the draft e-commerce policy. US tech giants want leeway in data localisation, ET Prime report. [paywall]
  • [July 15] Delhi and Bengaluru customs stop clearing ‘gifts’, Economic Times report, Medianama report.

Telecom/5G

  • [July 15] Inter-ministerial panel clears draft RFP to select auctioneer for 2019 spectrum sale, ET Telecom report.

More on Huawei

  • [July 10] Huawei makes Monaco world’s fully 5G country, Live Mint report.
  • [July 10] Huawei ban eased but tech can’t relax, Financial Times report.
  • [July 11] NSAB members, Chinese diplomat cross swords over Huawei, Indian Express report.
  • [July 12] Doubts over Huawei’s participation in India’s 5G rollout deepen, Live Mint report, NDTV Gadgets 360 report.
  • [July 14] Huawei plans extensive layoffs at its US operations, Live Mint report, The Economic Times report.
  • [July 13] US tells Britain: Fall in line over China and Huawei, or no trade deal, The Telegraph report
  • [July 14] US seeks to discredit UK spies in war against Huawei, The Times UK report.

Big Tech: Regulation

  • [July 11] France passes law taxing digital giants in defiance of US anger, Agence France Presse report.
  • [July 10] US Announces Inquiry of French Digital Tax that may end in tariffs, The New York Times report.

Cryptocurrencies

  • [July 9] Indian govt to educate top cops on cryptocurrencies, aiming to investigate crypto matters, CrytpoNewZ report.
  • [July 9] Facebook to Senators: Libra crypto will respect privacy, Coin Desk report.
  • [July 11] Winklevoss-backed crypto self-regulatory group prepares to woo congress, Coin Desk report.
  • [July 12] Japanese crypto exchange hacked, loses $ 32 million, The Hindu Business Line report, Coin Telegraph report.
  • [July 13] Study exposes how Russia, Iran and China are weaponizing crypto, CNN report.
  • [July 13] China’s illegal crypto mining crackdown could ignite a bitcoin price rally, CNN report.
  • [July 15] IRS confirms it trained staff to find crypto wallets, Coin Desk report.

Emerging Tech

  • [July 9] AI in cybersecurity expected to surpass $38 billion, Security Boulevard report.
  • [July 14] How aritifical intelligence is solving different business problems, Financial Express report.
  • [July 14] Why AI is the future of cybersecurity, Forbes report.

Cybersecurity

  • [July 8] Chinese hackers demonstrate their global cyber espionage reach with breach at 10 of the world’s biggest telecoms, CPO Magazine report.
  • [July 12] Businesses in India tapping AI to improve cybersecurity, The Economic Times report, Fortune India report.
  • [July 15] Indian IT managers facing budget crunch for cybersecurity, The Economic Times report.

Tech and Law Enforcement: Surveillance and Cyber Crime

  • [July 8] NCRB invites bids to implement Automated Facial Recognition System, Medianama report.
  • [July 9]  The chase gets a lot easier for tech-wielding cops now, The Economic Times report.
  • [July 9] Delhi government begins installing CCTV cameras inside classrooms to prevent crime: report, Medianama report. Times now News report.
  • [July 10] Instagram announces two new anti-bullying features, Instagram’s announcement, Thw Wall Street Journal report, Medianama report.
  • [July 11] WhatsApp messages can be traced without diluting encryption, Zee News report.
  • [July 12] New POCSO bill to expand child porn definition to include anime, adults posing depicting children, Medianma report, Hindustan Times report.
  • [July 12] SC refuses to stay installation of CCTV cameras in Delhi Government schools, Medianama report, Bar & Bench report.

Tech and Military

  • [July 8] Japan-India security cooperation: Asian giants to expand their relations to Space, Financial Express report.
  • [July 8] Bill to tag individuals as ‘terrorist’ introduced in LS, Opposition protests: The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act Amendment Bill, 2019, Business Standard report
  • [July 8] Government introduces Bill in Lok Sabha to amend National Investigation Agency Act, The Economic Times report.
  • [July 8] Govt to procure 1.86 lakh bullet proof jackets by April next, The Hindu Business Line report.
  • [July 8] India, Russia agree on new payment mode for S-400 deal to get around US sanctions, The Print report.
  • [July 9] National e-Governance Division to revamp management app for the army, The Week report.
  • [July 9] Amazon, Microsoft wage war over the Pentagon’s ‘war cloud’,  NDTV Gadgets 360 report
  • [July 10] Last chance to get tech: Navy says negotiating next 6 subs to take years, Business Standard report.
  • [July 10] Tactical communications market size in the US region is projected to experience substantial proceeds by 2024, Tech Mag report.
  • [July 11] Govt says looking at tech to seal northern and eastern borders, Live Mint report.
  • [July 11] Army man arrested for leaking info on national security, The Tribune report.
  • [July 12] Wait for sniper rifles gets longer, MoD retracts the RFP issued last year, Financial Express report.
  • [July 12] India, Russia discuss space cooperation, The Hindu report
  • [July 12] Israel arms company signs $100 million missile deal with Indian army, Middle East Monitor report.

Defense Budget: Reports and Analyses

  • [July 8] Budget 2019: India redirects foreign aid to Indian ocean countries, NSCS expenditure hiked, Business Standard report.
  • [July 8] Laxman K Behera, Institute for Defense Studies and Analysis, India’s Defence budget 2019-20.
  • [July 8] PK Vasudeva, Deccan Herald, An alarming fall: Defence Budget 2019-20.
  • [July 8] Mihir S Sharma, Business Standard, Budget 2019: India won’t become a superpower with these allocations.
  • [July 9] PRS Legislative Research’s analysis: Ministry of Defence Demands for Grants 2019-20.
  • [July 9] Why Sitharaman’s budgetary allocation is unlikely to satisfy defence establishment, The Economic Times report.
  • [July 10] Brahma Chellaney, Hindustan Times, India’s defence planning has no clear strategic direction.
  • [July 10] Harsh V Pant, Live Mint Opinion, We need not whine about India’s small defence budget.
  • [July 12] Commodore Anil Jai Singh, Financial Express, Budget 2019: Optimising the Defence Budget and the need for organizational reform.
  • [July 13] Shekhar Gupta, The Print, Modi isn’t about to change India into national security state like Pakistan and bankrupt it.
  • [July 13] Budget 2019: Cybersecurity – a holy grail for government’s Digital India dream, Financial Express analysis.
  • [July 15] Ravi Shanker Kapoor, News 18 Opinion, Cost of not carrying out economic reforms: acute shortage of funds for military modernization.

Opinions and Anlayses

  • [July 8] Adam Bemma, Al Jazeera, Is Sri Lanka using the Easter attacks to limit digital freedom?
  • [July 9] Dr M Suresh Babu and Dr K Bhavana Raj, The Hans India, Data Protection Bill – boon or bane for digital economy?
  • [July 8] Walter Olson, The CATO Institute blog, One year later, the harms of Europe’s data-privacy law.
  • [July 8]  Jack Parrock, Euro News, The Brief: Data privacy v. surveillance transatlantic clash.
  • [July 9] Abhijit Mukhopadhyaya and Nishant Jha, ORF, Amidst US-China standoff Huawei battles for survival.
  • [July 10] Kuldip Kunmar, The Economic Times, Budget 2019 shows govt’s will to use Aadhaar to track financial transactions.
  • [July 11] Darryn Pollock, Forbes, Is Facebook forming a crypto mafia as Libra foundation members boost each other’s businesses?
  • [July 12] Amitendu Palit, Financial Express, India ditches data dialogue again.
  • [July 12] Shantanu Roy-Chaudhary, The Diplomat, India-China-Sri Lanka Triangle: The Defense Dimension.
  • [July 12] Richard A Clarke and Robert K Knake, The Wall Street Journal, US companies learn to defend themselves in cyberspace.
  • [July 12] Simon Chandler, Coin Telegraph, US Sanctions on Iran Crypto Mining— Inevitable or Impossible?
  • [July 12] Shekhar Chnadra, Scientific American, What to expect from India’s second Moon mission.
  • [July 14] Agnidipto Tarafder and Siddharth Sonkar, The Wire, Will the Aadhaar Amendment Bill Pass Judicial Scrutiny?
  • [July 14] Scott Williams, Live Wire, Your crypto overlords are coming…
  • [July 15] Why Google cloud hasn’t picked up yet in India, ET Telecom report

The Facebook Effect: Political Advertisement on Social Media

The Election Commission(EC) released the dates for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections on the 10th of March, and with this announcement, India has officially entered the home stretch of the 2019 elections. With the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) now in effect, the political parties are bound by certain restrictions in terms of advertising and campaigning. MCC’s have been in effect since 1968 which serve as a binding model code based upon a consensus between all political parties to ensure ethical behavior during elections. Due to its consensual nature, MCC is not a statutory document and the violation of many of its provisions does not attract punitive action. The MCC seeks to ensure free and fair elections and is enforced by the Election Commission. It has evolved with time to incorporate all aspects of political campaigning, with the current edition of the MCC also extending to social media posts and online advertising. This shows a paradigm shift in the mode of campaigning employed by many political parties; with the rise of social media activity in India, the online sphere has become a virtual battleground of political advertisement.

The regulations which govern other advertisements, such as print media and radio, will also be extended to social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter. The forums have been contacted by the Elections Commission, and platforms like Twitter and Facebook have released their own codes of conduct to be followed at the time of elections. The increased scrutiny of social media platforms for political advertisement is a welcomed change, and comes at the heels of the Cambridge Analytica scandal which broke early last year, and is rumored to have has significant impacts on the US elections and the Brexit vote.

The new guidelines bring political advertisements on social media platforms under the MCC, similar to the provisions relating to newspaper and radio advertisements, parties are now required to disclose expenditure accounts for social media advertisement as well. These advertisements will also have to go through a mandated Pre-Certification procedure, and they will be monitored by the Media Certification and Monitoring Committees (MCMCs) placed at the district and state levels to which a social media expert will be added. The candidates are also required to submit details of their social media accounts (as applicable) at the time of filing nominations. The EC has also extended the norms applicable to social media advertising to include Voice and SMS messages propagated through phones.

The platforms have also agreed to the guidelines laid down in the MCC and agreed to take stringent actions against any content reported by designated officers of the EC. To this end, they have agreed to set up priority channels with the EC for quick response to complaints. The EC has also sought to extend the ban on political advertisement for 48 hours before the elections to social media, as mandated under section 128 of the Representation of People Act.

The new guidelines have been lauded and criticized by many. One of the chief complaints stems from the fact that private posts of individuals would not count as advertisements and would thus not be covered under these regulations. Parties and workers are still able to use their pages to upload posts supporting their candidacy which are exempt from the MCC. However, it would be difficult to bring personal posts under this ambit without violating the right to freedom of speech guaranteed under the constitution. Any discrepancies or hate speech propagated under these private posts would still be governed under their community guidelines and can be reported under the same. Additionally, depending upon the subject matter of the individual posts, they would also be punishable under the Hate Speech laws in India, such as those relating to promoting enmity between groups, assertions prejudicial to national integration, hurting religious sentiment etc. There is a comprehensive and robust legal framework which deals with Hate Speech in India and as such the EC should not be required to step in to govern a citizen’s private posts made in a personal capacity.

The effects of the guidelines can already be felt, as the EC has contacted Facebook, asking them to take down a controversial poster featuring members of the Armed forces, being used as part of a political campaign. The poster in question was uploaded by the social media account of O.P Sharma and has a picture of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman on it, which is in direct contravention of and advisory issued by the commission in 2013, in which it had asked them to desist from using photographs of defence personnel or any events associated with them for political propaganda

What you can do: The 17th Lok Sabha elections also debuts the cVIGIL app, which is a mobile application created by the Election Commission to provide a reliable mechanism enabling citizens to transmit and track complaints relating to the breach of the MCC. In addition, the Voters helpline 1950, can also be used to register complaints for potential breeches of the MCC. With the upcoming election shaping up to be one of the most expensive elections to date, the EC is working on ensuring a free and fair election process without any voter coercion and fake news to skew the balance.

Happy Voting!

Launching our Mapping Report on ‘Hate Speech Laws in India’

We are launching our report on hate speech laws in India. This report maps criminal laws and procedural laws, along with medium-specific laws used by the state to regulate hate speech.

This report was launched last week at a panel on ‘Harmful Speech in India’, as a part of UNESCOs World Press Freedom Day. The panel was comprised of Pamela Philipose, Aakar Patel, Chinmayi Arun and Sukumar Muralidharan. The panelists discussed the state of harmful speech in the country and regulatory issues arising from the proliferation of hate speech.

We hope that this report can serve as a basis for further research on hate speech in India, and can serve as a resource for practicing lawyers, journalists and activists.

We would appreciate any feedback, please feel free to leave a comment or to write to us.

The report can be found here.

Update from the SCOI: In Re: Prajwala

By Arpita Biswas

In 2015, the NGO Prajwala sent the Supreme Court a letter raising concerns about videos of sexual violence being distributed on the internet. Over the years, an expert committee was established, which has recommended auto-blocking select search terms and setting up online portals to register complaints against sexual abuse material, amongst others.

Our coverage on the matter can be found here.
The matter was heard today by a bench comprising of Justice Lokur and Justice Lalit.
Following from previous hearings, where the setting up of the ‘online cyber crime reporting portals’ was discussed, the petitioners have asked for 4 months time to train officers in charge of such portals.
Further, on certain proposals, petitioners and respondents disagreed on what could be administered and what was technically feasible. The respondents further stated that the technology was not available to implement certain proposals.
The order passed today can be found here.  The next hearing is scheduled for the 16th of April, 2018.
Arpita Biswas is a Programme Officer at the Centre for Communication Governance at National Law University Delhi

Facebook and its (dis)contents

By Adhitya Singh Chawla

In 2016, Norwegian writer Tom Egeland, uploaded a post on Facebook, listing seven photographs that “changed the history of warfare”. The post featured the Pulitzer-winning image, ‘The Terror of War’, which depicts a naked nine-year-old running from a napalm attack during the Vietnam War. Facebook deleted the post, and suspended Egeland’s account.

A Norwegian newspaper, Aftenposten, while reporting on the suspension, used the same image on its Facebook page. The newspaper soon received a message from Facebook demanding that the image be either removed, or pixelated. The editor-in-chief refused to comply in an open letter to Mark Zuckerburg, noting his concern at the immense power Facebook wielded over speech online. The issue escalated when several Norwegian politicians, including the Prime Minister, shared the image on Facebook, and were temporarily suspended from Facebook as well.

Facebook initially stated that it would be difficult to create a distinction between instances where a photograph of a nude child could be allowed. However, due to widespread censure, the platform eventually decided to reinstate the image owing to its “status as an iconic image of historical importance.”

This incident brought to light the tricky position Facebook finds itself in as it attempts to police its platform. Facebook addresses illegal and inappropriate content through a mix of automated processes, and human moderation. The company publishes guidelines about what content may not be appropriate for its platform, called its ‘Community Standards.’ Users can ‘flag’ content that they think does not meet the Community Standards, which is then reviewed by moderators. Moderators may delete, ignore, or escalate flagged content to a senior manager. In some cases, the user account may be suspended, or asked to submit identity verification.

As evident from the ‘Terrors of War’ incident, Facebook has often come under fire for supposed ‘wrong’ moderation of content, as well as opacity in how its community review process comes to be applied. It has been argued that content that is evidently in violation of Community Standards is often not taken down, while content that should be safe is censored. For instance, Facebook courted controversy again, when it was accused of blocking content and accounts documenting persecution of the Rohingya Muslim community in Myanmar.

Closer home as well, multiple instances of Facebook’s questionable moderation practices have come to light. In October 2017, Raya Sarkar, a law student based out of the United States, had created what came to be called, the List. The List named over 70 prominent academics that had been accused of sexual harassment. The approach proved extremely controversial, sparking debates about due process, and the failure of institutional mechanisms to address harassment. Facebook blocked her account for seven days, which proved equally contentious. Sarkar’s account was restored only after Facebook staff in Palo Alto were contacted directly. Similar instances have been reported of seemingly arbitrary application of the Community Standards. In many cases accounts have been suspended, and content blocked without notice, explanation or recourse.

Content moderation inherently involves much scope for interpretation and disagreement. Factors such as context, as well as cultural differences, render it a highly subjective exercise. Algorithms don’t appear to have reached sufficient levels of sophistication, and there exist larger issues associated with automated censoring of speech. Human moderators are by all accounts burdened by the volume and the psychologically taxing nature of the work, and therefore prone to error. The way forward should therefore be first, to ensure that transparent mechanisms exist for recourse against the removal of legitimate speech.

In light of the ‘Terror of War’ incident, Facebook responded by updating its community standards. In a statement, it said that it would allow graphic material that would be “newsworthy, significant, or important to the public interest — even if they might otherwise violate our standards.” Leaked moderator guidelines in 2017 opened the company up to granular public critique of its policies. There is evidently scope for Facebook to be more responsive and consultative in how it regulates speech online.

In June 2017, Facebook reached 2 billion monthly users, making it the largest social network, and a platform for digital interaction without precedent. It has announced plans to reach 5 billion. With the influence it now wields, it must also embrace its responsibility to be more transparent and accountable to its users.

Aditya is an Analyst at the Centre for Communication Governance at National Law University Delhi

Update from the Supreme Court – Aadhaar linking and Sabu Mathew George vs. Union of India

By Arpita Biswas

Aadhaar linking 

With regard to the pending matter of linking Aadhaar with certain services, the Bench stated that the hearing for interim relief would take place tomorrow (14/12). In addition, the Centre issued a notification on the 12th of December, stating that the deadline for linking Aadhaar with bank accounts, which was the 31st of December, was extended indefinitely. On the 13th of December however, this deadline was fixed as the 31st of March. Our coverage of the Aadhaar linking matter can be found here and here.

Sabu Mathew George vs. Union of India

Today, the Supreme Court heard the ongoing matter of Sabu Mathew George vs. Union of India. In 2008, a petition was filed to ban advertisements endorsing sex-selective abortions from search engine results. Advertisements endorsing sex selective abortions are illegal under Section 22 of the PNDT Act (The Pre-conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act), 1994 Act. Several orders have been passed over the last few years, the last of which was passed on April 13th, 2017. Following from these orders, the Court had directed the Centre to set up a nodal agency where complaints against sex selective ads could be lodged. The Court had also ordered the search engines involved to set up an in-house expert committee in this regard. The order dated April 13th stated that compliance with the mechanism in place would be checked hereinafter. Our blog posts covering these arguments and other issues relevant to search neutrality can be found on the following links (1, 2 and 3).

In today’s proceedings, the matter was disposed off.

Senior counsel Sanjay Parikh appearing for the petitioners started off by commenting on the working of the nodal agencies and the limits within which they function. He stated that search engines were ‘washing their hands off’ and trying to pawn off their responsibilities to the government.

Counsel for the respondents argued that the petitioners displayed a fundamentally incorrect understanding of how the internet functioned. They stated that a blanket ban on content, as desired by the petitioners, would not be possible.

The respondents then stated that problematic content was taken down in the time period stipulated in the earlier orders. The petitioners refuted this statement.

The respondents once again stated that the petitioners ‘betrayed a lack of understanding’ of how search engines functioned.

The petitioners stated that search engines have been much more proactive and have had more success in taking down content related to child sexual abuse material and terrorism. As per the petitioners, this implies that search engines are capable of removing content in an efficient manner.

The respondents stated that material relating to sexual abuse usually relates to images and other visuals, as opposed to search terms or words. They stated that this was an important distinction, and would determine the extent to which search engines could efficiently take down content.

Referring to the affidavit filed, the petitioners reiterated that the government and the nodal agency were ‘helpless’ and would need further cooperation to prevent content from disseminating.

To this, the respondents stated that the government of India should block problematic URLs.

The petitioners then drew attention to the magnitude of illegitimate content on the internet, by discussing statistics from a YouTube search.

At this point, Chief Justice Dipak Misra interjected by stating that nodal agencies had to function in a competent manner and ensure that complaints were addressed in the requisite time period.

The petitioners responded stating that nodal agencies were finding it difficult to efficiently regulate content, since the takedown of URLs did not affect the availability of related illegitimate content on the internet.

The respondents then outlined the constraints within which search engines functioned. They stated that a search engine could only de-index illegitimate content on the internet, and that the content would continue to exist on the internet otherwise. They remarked on safe-harbour exceptions and also stated that filtering and indexing is an algorithmic process, which could only be regulated to a certain extent. Reiterating on the algorithmic nature of the process, they stated that ‘one step could not be removed from the process’.

They also reassured the petitioners that any problematic URLs, that they were intimated of, would be removed. However, proxy websites with similar content could still crop up. They stated that the possible permutations and combinations were endless, and eliminating search results was not possible. However, sponsored ads could be dealt with effectively.  They also stated that dealing with every instance of infringement on an individual level would be impossible.

At this point, the Chief Justice asked the respondents to elaborate on what could be done.

The respondents stated that there was a need to understand the technology better.

The Bench then asked the petitioners if they could interact with the committee to better understand technical solutions.

Mr. Parikh, referring to an affidavit filed, stated that Google, in 2014, had displayed the ability to ‘proactively’ takedown content, without being informed by external bodies.

The respondents stated that they would look into this.

The Bench concluded by stating that the nodal agency should hold a meeting with the respondents and the petitioners within 6 weeks.

Chief Justice Dipak Misra read out the order.

Mr. Sanjay Parikh appearing for the petitioners stated that the nodal agency, despite the orders passed, had not been able to stop the offending material from being used. According to Mr. Parikh, search engines alone have the potentiality to deliberately remove offending material. Mr. Parikh has also stated that there are other ways in which offending content can be removed by the search engines.

The counsel for the respondents have stated that content can only be removed once it is pointed out, and once a specific URL is specified. There are other permutations and combinations to consider while regulating search results.

Senior Counsel Pinky Anand has stated that the nodal agency is hard at work and addresses complaints efficiently whenever it receives them.

The matter was disposed off.

Arpita Biswas is a Programme Officer at the Centre for Communication Governance at National Law University Delhi

The Supreme Court’s Free Speech To-Do List

Written by members of the Civil Liberties team at CCG

The Supreme Court of India is often tasked with adjudicating disputes that shape the course of free speech in India. Here’s a roundup up of some key cases currently before the Supreme Court.

Kamlesh Vaswani vs. Union of India

A PIL petition was filed in 2013 seeking a ban on pornography in India. The petition also prayed for a direction to the Union Government to “treat watching of porn videos and sharing as non-bailable and cognizable offence.”

During the course of the proceedings, the Department of Telecommunications ordered ISPs to block over 800 websites allegedly hosting pornographic content. This was despite the freedom of expression and privacy related concerns raised before the Supreme Court. The Government argued that the list of websites had been submitted to the DoT by the petitioners, who blocked the websites without any verification. The ban was revoked after much criticism.

The case, currently pending before the Supreme Court, also presented implications for the intermediary liability regime in India. Internet Service Providers may claim safe harbor from liability for content they host, as long as they satisfy certain due diligence requirements under Sec. 79 of the IT Act, read with the Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules, 2011. After the Supreme Court read down these provisions in Shreya Singhal v. Union of India, the primary obligation is to comply with Court orders seeking takedown of content. The petition before the Supreme Court seeks to impose an additional obligation on ISPs to identify and block all pornographic content, or risk being held liable. Our work on this case can be found here.

Sabu Mathew George vs. Union of India

This is a 2008 case, where a writ petition was filed to ban ‘advertisements’ relating to pre-natal sex determination from search engines in India. Several orders have been passed, and the state has now created a nodal agency that would provide search engines with details of websites to block. The ‘doctrine of auto-block’ is an important consideration in this case -in one of the orders the Court listed roughly 40 search terms and stated that respondents should ensure that any attempt at looking up these terms would be ‘auto-blocked’, which raises concerns about intermediary liability and free speech.

Currently, a note has been filed by the petitioners advocate, which states that search engines have the capacity to takedown such content, and even upon intimation, only end up taking down certain links and not others. Our work on this case can be found on the following links – 1, 2, 3.

Prajwala vs. Union of India

This is a 2015 case, where an NGO (named Prajwala) sent the Supreme Court a letter raising concerns about videos of sexual violence being distributed on the internet. The letter sought to bring attention to the existence of such videos, as well as their rampant circulation on online platforms.

Based on the contents of the letter, a suo moto petition was registered. Google, Facebook, WhatsApp, Yahoo and Microsoft were also impleaded as parties. A committee was constituted to “assist and advise this Court on the feasibility of ensuring that videos depicting rape, gang rape and child pornography are not available for circulation” . The relevant order, which discusses the committee’s recommendations can be found here. One of the stated objectives of the committee was to examine technological solutions to the problem – for instance, auto-blocking. This raises issues related to intermediary liability and free speech.