Privacy in India: Whose Right? Who's Wrong?
Free Public Lecture
Theatre 3, Level 1
Alan Gilbert Building
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Do Indians have a fundamental right to privacy? The Indian Supreme Court debated this question in the context of the government's biometric identity program, Aadhaar, implemented in 2009. While the initial nudge to the courts came from pro-privacy actors who warned of Aadhaar's potential for mass surveillance and social profiling, privacy subsequently stirred the passions of policymakers, academics and journalists among other engaged minds to justify why the idea was vital to a constitutional democracy.
The debate on privacy led to two major legal judgments – one declaring it a fundamental right in 2017 and the other upholding the constitutional validity of mandatory Aadhaar for welfare access in 2018. Consequently, privacy was held to be fundamental but not necessarily for those dependent on welfare, who must now be identified by the state in order to be economically empowered.
This talk offers an overview of the Indian privacy debate with the argument that privacy is a concept subject to constant paradox. It maps the legal terrain on which privacy finds grounds in India, examines the mediascape of privacy-impassioned publics and concludes that privacy is much more beyond Aadhaar and vice versa. The talk suggests that despite its urgency, privacy will always conjoin opposing impulses to defend it passionately as a right yet forego it in pursuit of technologically mediated visibilities.