SC raps Centre on social media monitoring

SC raps Centre on social media monitoring
NEW DELHI, JUL 13 (AGENCIES) | Publish Date: 7/14/2018 12:09:09 AM IST
Supreme Court on Friday rejected Centre’s proposal to set up social media monitoring hubs. Hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) challenging the Centre’s move, the apex court said, “We seem to be moving towards a surveillance state.” Petition was filed by Trinamool Congress MLA Mahua Moitra.
“The government wants to tap citizens’ WhatsApp messages. It will be like creating a surveillance state,” a bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud said.
The petitioner alleged that the Centre’s move to set up social media monitoring hubs was a violation of the right to privacy, which was declared a fundamental right by the Supreme Court last year. The social media monitoring hubs would be tools to snoop on individuals, the petition claimed. The petitioner, Mahua Moitra, was being represented by senior advocate A.M. Singhvi who argued that the proposed move directly violates the right to privacy. He added that if the move comes into effect it will be invasive of the fundamental rights of the citizen of the country.
Meanwhile, Supreme Court sought assistance of Attorney General KK Venugopal in this matter issuing a notice to the Centre. The Information and Broadcasting Ministry has two weeks’ time to respond. The following matter will next be heard on August 3. The development comes to light after Supreme Court on June 18 had refused to grant urgent hearing in the matter.
The petition was filed after BJP had proposed its idea of deploying social media analytical tool that will track the social media profiles of the citizens of the country.
Mahua Moitra said that the Centre’s move to monitor social media would give it access to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and email accounts of individuals. This is a blatant violation of the right to privacy, she said. The government would be in position to look into the personal information of individuals and also state government’s data upto district level, she said.
Recently, the Broadcast Engineering Consultant India Limited (BECIL) had invited tenders for setting up social media monitoring centres. The tender was invited for software requirement for the project. It is to be used by the government for collecting information from social media. Contracted employees will be hired to scan social media contents to gather information about people’s opinion about the government schemes.
The government’s argument is that the move will help it get the real feedback on the schemes, which could be modified to make them more people-centric. But, it has led to fears that the government would be in a position to look into the private lives of individuals.

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