Is protecting our privacy a losing game today?

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In 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic triggered governments across the world to instate lockdowns, several Indian states adopted digital contact tracing and the use of drones to monitor and map their citizens.

Although this paved the way for social control through surveillance becoming the ‘new normal’, rampant news about information leaks and breaches by apps, spy softwares and social media platforms have awakened Indian citizens to how their privacy is being persistently compromised.

With inadequate and outmoded laws for privacy, and disparate institutions normalising privacy violations of personal information in the name of national security, apprehensions about individual data and the use it’s being put to have hit a peak.

In “What Privacy Means – Why It Matters and How We Can Protect It”, (Hachette), Siddharth Sonkar analyses the history and understanding — both cultural and political — of privacy in India and establishes why objecting to interference with privacy is the pressing need of the day.

Taking a deep dive into the grating realities of individual privacy, he explains how an Indian citizen’s privacy is hardly ‘private’. In the process, he urges us to question whether in India, where boundaries between the personal and public are increasingly becoming blurred, relationships of trust between governments, corporations and individual citizens can at all be rebuilt.

Today, when our privacy is in the process of being invaded, constantly and insidiously, Sonkar’s incisive, revelatory and thought-provoking book provides a roadmap for everyone who is unsure of the rights they are entitled to as they continue to live their lives online.

“A timely and wide-ranging discussion on privacy rights in India, asking important questions about issues of contemporary relevance like surveillance and data protection,” says Justice A.P. Shah, former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court and chairperson of the Group of Experts on Privacy constituted by government in 2012.

“An important contribution to understanding the right to privacy in all its aspects, considering the technological advances made in tracking and surveillance,” says Justice Madan Lokur, former judge of the Supreme Court, and currently a judge of the non-resident panel of the Supreme Court of Fiji and the first Indian judge to become a judge of a foreign country.

He was one of the four judges who participated in an unprecedented press conference on January 12, 2018 on the functioning of the Supreme Court.

Siddharth Sonkar is a technology, media and telecommunications (TMT) lawyer based out of Bengaluru with a specific interest in informational privacy.

In his final year at the National University of Juridical Sciences (NUJS), he led a group of students as coordinator of a student committee supervised by a faculty advisor, to submit comments to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019.

The committee, on the basis of the comments, invited NUJS to appear in-person to discuss the suggested changes, making NUJS one of the only academic institutions to be invited for an in-person appearance before the Committee to discuss changes to the proposed data protection law.

When he is not writing, Sonkar spends his time listening to music, playing with stray dogs and his guitars.

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