At World Economic Forum, Amnesty slams snooping, says problem in India too

Written by PTI | Davos | Updated: Jan 24 2014, 18:49pm hrs
World Economic Forum 2014At WEF 2014, Amnesty says technology advancements, widespread use of mobile phones have made it very easy to invade privacy of common people.
Criticising the US action of snooping on people from across the world, rights group Amnesty International says that technology advancements and widespread use of mobile phones have made it very easy to invade privacy of common people and such actions must not be resorted to without valid reasons.

This problem is also getting serious in India, which is justified in its criticism of the US for its snooping operations but it should not do similar things domestically, Amnesty International's Secretary General Salil Shetty said. Speaking on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting, Shetty said that the 'Big Brother' problem relating to US government has become the defining issue of this time as far as rights of common people are concerned globally, just as the issues like human rights in 60s and 70s, and women rights in 70s and 80s.

"On the one hand, the mobile phones are very empowering in nature, but on the other hand, these mobile phones have also created a situation where government and the companies may be watching you.

"If some one wants to track you down, it becomes very easy today through mobile phones. For repressive governments, it has actually become a new tool for repression," he said.

Shetty said that most of the constitutions enshrine the right to privacy as a fundamental right of a citizen and there is a good reason why this provision has been made.

"Governments have a responsibility to protect the citizens and they have got this very legitimate right to provide security. But this right comes with a lot of responsibility. So if you want to collect data and to snoop on people, you have to have a legal basis for doing so. You cannot just do the mass surveillance.

"You just cannot go on a fishing expedition and you must have sufficient reasons if you want to tap a phone. There must be a judiciary order to tap phones and the governments cannot do such things on their own. One have to be very careful about these things," he said.

On the whistleblower actions of people like Snowden and Julian Assange, Shetty said if such disclosures about repressive and secret operations of the governments and other entities are in public interest, they must be disclosed.

On how serious these problems are in respect to India, Shetty said it is starting to happen in India as well.

"The government of India is very legitimate in questioning the actions of NSA (National Security Agency), but they cannot have double standards. You cannot indulge in similar activities if you want them to put all checks and balances," he said.

He said there has to be a balance between security and privacy and such actions should be resorted to only in matters of high national security and that too after putting all necessary checks and balances in place and with a judicial backing.