WhatsApp’s new privacy policy.

Identifiable living individual and includes names, email Ids, ID
card numbers, physical and IP addresses. Data is the large
collection of information that is stored in a computer or on a
network. Data is collected and handled by entities called data
fiduciaries. The processing of this data has become an
important source of profits for big corporations. Companies,
governments, and political parties find it valuable because
they can use it to find the most convincing ways to advertise
online. The physical attributes of data where data is stored,
where it is sent, where it is turned into something useful are
called data flows.

WhatsApp’s decision to delay the update of its privacy policy,
following a backlash from its users, is an implicit
acknowledgement of the increasing role played by
perceptions about privacy in the continued well-being of a
popular service. Problems for the Facebook-owned app
started earlier this January when it announced an update to
its terms of service and privacy policy, according to which users would no longer be able to opt out of sharing data with
Facebook.

February 8 was kept as the deadline for the new terms to be
accepted. This triggered a mass withdrawal from WhatsApp,
the likes of which it has never encountered, not even in the
aftermath of the Cambridge Analytical scandal, which did
bring a lot of bad press to its parent, or when the messaging
app’s co-founders called it quits a few years ago. The
WhatsApp policy update has clearly spooked many users,
who, concerned about their privacy getting compromised,
have shifted to alternative platforms such as Signal and
Telegram. WhatsApp has asked for data which contains your account
information such as Phone number, the name attached to
the account, the profile photo you currently have for
WhatsApp, the device you are using, the time when you have
been online, all your contacts, all group names of which you
are a part of, the device type, the IP address, device build
number, device manufacturer, details of the web/desktop
version and the platform which is used for WhatsApp Web,
your Status.

It also has the exact time when you set the
current profile photo and the current status message. The list
includes all contacts with whom you would have chatted on
WhatsApp, and only the mobile phone numbers are
mentioned. It also has your settings for the app, including the
privacy settings for Last Seen, Profile Photo, About Privacy

and Status Privacy. It also includes a list of the all numbers
you have blocked and whether you have Read Receipt on or
off. The issue has once again raised questions about what
constitutes legitimate uses of data and how businesses,
governments and political parties can and cannot use data .A
White Paper produced by a government-appointed
committee, headed by retired judge B.N. Srikrishna , which is
formulating a national data protection law for India and its people to safeguard there interest.

APOCALYPSE

The world ended 2019 with the news that a mystery respiratory virus had been discovered in the animal market of Wuhan, China. What seemed to be a minor piece of news at the time has now evolved into a global pandemic. There is a force among us that is invisible to the human eye but strong enough to wipe out the lives of millions of people in a short period of time. It is, without a doubt, a challenging situation for the entire planet. For our own sake, it necessitates that we take a few simple yet necessary steps. The question is, have we yet realised how important it is to take these precautions?

Although most of us are binge-watching shows and whining about our messed-up schedules from the safety of our houses, even more are bravely braving the elements. We are lucky to have doctors and nurses who selflessly put themselves in tense hospital conditions every day to ensure that we are not exposed to the confines of an isolation ward again. We should be grateful to the cops who are continuously guiding us back to the safety of our homes when their own lives are on the line. Let us not forget about the manual scavengers who continue to clean up our garbage. We should be proud of scientists all over the world who are devoting every ounce of their expertise and experience to developing a vaccine that works. Humans will have less physical interaction, which will not only relieve the intense stress on their minds, but will also speed up the process of ‘flattening the curve.’ At the same time, seeing reports like “infuriated people pelting stones on the local police,” “COVID positive patient reportedly fled the hospital, refusing to be held in isolation,” and “Public is blatantly breaking rules while being in the fourth step of lockdown” is disheartening. All we have to do is stay inside and only go outside if absolutely necessary.

It took a pandemic to make us understand the value of protecting our own and others’ welfare. Nature has hit us in the face by infecting us with this virus, a really clever way of saying, “You can’t survive without me.” But I can’t do it without you.’ Nature is giggling hysterically at us because we disregarded its cries.

Who knew a fictional character could reliably predict the future when Tony Stark said, “I’m sorry, the Earth is closed today.” It is in our hands to determine whether or not the Earth will stay closed in the future.

Militarization

Militarization is at its heart a problem-solving ideology, using violence to solve problems in front of you, using military-type weapons, and using the threat of that violence. Over the last decade, the number of CAPFs (Central Armed Police Forces) has almost doubled despite the major ministries, and departments of the central government have witnessed a decline in their personnel.The foremost function of a state is to ensure the safety of its citizens. And it is discharged through two principal instruments- The Army, to protect from external aggression and police, to ensure the safety of citizens’ properties. In federal systems, the former is controlled by the center while, latter by the states. While this has been the case with India that the army performing its tasks substantially better than the police. India is rare in having a third paramilitary instrument controlled at the federal level, not by the armed forces but rather by the Ministry of Home Affairs. While the CAPFs perform a range of functions, from riot control to VIP duties, overseas deployments, and disaster relief, they have two principal functions: guarding the country’s borders, and internal security. The largest CAPF, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), has been deployed principally in the two most vexing internal security challenges facing India — the strife in Jammu and Kashmir, and Left-wing extremism in central and eastern India. About 118 battalions of the CAPFs have been deployed to combat the Maoists using the Indian state’s “elephant” approach on dealing with insurgencies – throw tens of thousands of men (and now women as well) at the problem, and the sheer weight gradually crushes the opponent. More worryingly, this expansion has proceeded much more rapidly than that of the other security-providing instruments of the state, the army, and the police. In 1998, CAPFs were less than 58 percent of the size of the army and by 2015, this had increased to 82 percent and the number is climbing. The size of CAPFs relative to the civil police has increased by nearly 15 percent over the last two decades, which means that basic law and order which is the first line of defense and is already under severe stress is being neglected at the cost of a more militarized approach to policing. Organisationally, there are hard questions regarding the overall effectiveness of these forces, stemming from weaknesses in training, poor equipment, and ineffective leadership. Rapid expansion has meant that recent inductees have not gone through as much rigorous training as needed. But perhaps the biggest lacuna is leadership. The political leadership incessantly misuses them in activities like “VIP duty”. Also the officer: soldier casualty is too low as compared to the army.The results have been all too painful in the severity of casualties of the rank-and-file of the CAPFs. Suicide rates in the CRPF are at least as high as among Indian farmers, but there is little anguish in the media about that. Data indicates that far more perish from malaria and stress-related heart attacks than combat. Feeble leadership also underlies a weak esprit de corps in the units, with bodies not always recovered after ambushes, and weapons of dead soldiers looted by the Maoists, which would not happen to army units.There are fiscal implications, not just of relative priorities of public spending, but even for the CAPFs themselves, as pension and healthcare bills will sharply rise in due course and cut into much-needed spending on better equipment and facilities. This is happening to the army, where one can see the crowding-out effects of rising pensions bills on military modernization. But there might be an even more disturbing implication. The use of lethal force by organs of the state against its citizens requires utmost vigilance. The state needs to be extremely careful that the rapid growth of the CAPFs does not end up creating more problems than what it is trying to solve through this expansion.

Image by rawpixel.com

When the Police take matters into their hands…

Police Cars in India (List of all Indian Cop Cars)

On July 10, the Vikas Dubey was killed in an encounter while he was being taken to Kanpur in the custody of UP Special Task Force. The gangster was arrested at a temple in Ujjain just a day before for murder of as many as 8 policemen. To describe the incident, the car which was taking the accused to Kanpur got overturned and Dubey seized the opportunity by snatching the gun from a policeman who was injured in the accident. Afterwards, the man tried to flee but he was killed from the shots fired by the police in retaliation.

The whole story sounds a scene from the movie Singham in which a group of cops can’t stand the injustice anymore and take matters into their hands to bring a politically powerful organisation of gangsters down with the aid of fake encounters. When a person with a criminal record or a terrorist is killed by the police or armed forces without any trial but in self-defence, it is known as encounter killing. Such killing can also be part of a set up in which the police makes it seem like they were helpless and the life of the criminal was compromised in turn.

Something similar happened in Hyderabad in December 2019. Four men who were suspected of raping and killing a female vet were shot dead when they were being taken to the crime scene. The narrative goes like this – the four men had made an attempt to escape by attacking the ten officers that they were in the custody of and not only did they throw stones and sticks but also stole the officers’ gun. The police tried to make them surrender until they were finally killed in retaliatory firing. Justice was served and the police were appreciated for doing their job by the public.

But is it actually the police’s job to do justice or the court’s? The police are only supposed to catch the criminals and present them in court for trial. It is the court’s job to decide whether a criminal gets imprisoned for life, hanged or even figure out whether the accused is guilty and not the police’s. There have been several cases in which the police picks up the wrong person and sometimes they do it deliberately in order to calm the public rage or hide its very incompetence. Innocent people, usually from poor or minority section of the society, are dragged into jail so that the police can protect their image and become a hero in the public’s eyes.

Are the stories of police acting out and killing the suspects or murderers in defense even plausible? The fact that people were even able to get away from the police, let alone steal their guns and the police were not able to stop them. Law enforcement in this country has become more about revenge than justice. It is strange how the accused in so many major cases manage to escape from a large group of policeman and firearms always end up in the hands of arrested persons. An Encounter happens and whether it is real or staged, is subjective. How does police expect people to believe that such encounters are not fake? Because if it wasn’t, then it really says a lot about the competency of the officers assigned to such cases.