The heart of social structure now a days revolved around social media. Our modernization, particularly in the area of technology, has a flip side like any other coin that we often fail to understand. There must be a boundary drawn between the necessity of the activities on social media and the point at which they begin to dominate your life and everything about it. It even has the power to change how you see everything around the world because so much content and media are mindlessly ingested through these applications. There are many such applications, for example Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook and many more. It is not denied that some wonderfully positive things have actually been brought forth by these technologies, and these platforms have truly been responsible for some of those significant developments. It is clear that when the creators of social media platforms came up with the idea for these services nothing could have been further from their imaginations. As twitter officials claim in the documentary- the Social Dilemma, that they were not expecting any of this when they established twitter 12 years ago. Even a quick glance at these companies’ websites provides insights into how they actually see themselves. Take for example, Facebook’s goal of empowering individuals to build communities and bring the world closer. Twitter and YouTube share similar objectives. These companies were evidently painfully unprepared for the potential militarization of their platform.

For the first 50 years of Silicon Valley, it was all just about producing products and software and selling it to customers. But over the past 10years, Silicon Valley’s largest businesses have made a profit by selling its users and India is one of the largest markets for social media. Since we are not the ones paying for any of these apps and advertising agencies are the ones that pay we have ended up becoming the objects that are being sold through these platforms. Their one and only goal is to keep you interested in it as long as possible so that they can gather as much data as they can on you and sell it to the highest bidder. It does not end there, we like updating our personal day to day activities from the very morning to the end of the day and these social media platforms don’t just know what you post, they know much more than that. How is that even possible? What do they know? How do they do it? It is only possible because we willfully give away our privacy intentionally or unintentionally by signing up for Netflix, Amazon Prime, Facebook, Instagram etc. They know every little detail about you including what color you might like, what kind of dress you may prefer. They do it by capitalizing on your interests and innocence. The younger generation especially is affected the most by this because they don’t have the capacity to understand the harm in giving out their personal information so easily.

Let’s see what kind of data they collect from us and how they make use of it to infringe our privacy-

Privacy policies of these apps state that data can be collected from 1. Type of content we create

2. Messages we send and receive

3. The kind of content we view on these apps

4. Features and apps that we use on other apps etc.

These apps also collect our personal information like name, email, phone number but this information isn’t just taken from us they also collect information from our contacts etc. Information on what app we are currently using, where exactly the cursor keeps moving, and where it stops more to understand what kind of content we prefer watching. They do not even inform us when there is a data breach. In addition to this they have our device information, websites that we visit along with cookie data, purchases and transactions that we make. How exactly do they get this information on us? It is because of our one negligent click on the screen every time we click on ‘accept’ to terms and conditions of these platforms.

Information Technology Act, 2000 is a primary law in India that deals with matters related to cybercrimes and everything in connection to these platforms and their functions. It is important to keep in mind that all of these social media platforms must comply with the IT Act, 2000 which swears to protect the privacy of user’s personal information. A few provisions out of IPC and IEA are also amended in this act. Since the majority of these platforms are run by foreign businesses operating in India, they must also abide by the 2020 IT Act. IT Act offers an extensive framework and many social media services still face substantial challenges when it comes to compliance with the act. When we look at the difficulties being faced by these platforms it is clear that there are several obstacles in the way of achieving complete compliance. WhatsApp for instance, is leading the conversation about compliance; in a similar vein, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and other platforms have begun to experience difficulties with content moderation etc.

This law requires social media companies to moderate content more carefully diligently in order to safeguard user safety. This includes avoiding posting unlawful content or promptly removing them. Through Shreya Singhal v. Union of India, the Supreme Court of India struck down Section 66A of the IT Act. This law made it possible to arrest someone for uploading objectionable content online. The court decided that this clause restricts free speech and is excessively ambiguous. The Digital Personal Data Protection Act of 2023 is another law that deals with privacy and this act established a structure that is more preventive in nature. The Supreme Court of India’s historic ruling in Justice K.S. Puttuswamy and Anr. V. Union of India and Ors from 2017 came before the drafting of this legislation. One of the most crucial elements of the fundamental right to privacy, according to the nine-judge bench in this judgement is the privacy of information. This ruling made it essential to satisfy the three criteria’s of “Legality,” “Need,” and “Proportionality”.  By now it should be clear that all social media companies are putting themselves in a risky position in terms of the lawfulness and proportionality of our privacy when they utilize our data and information without our permission. Moreover, Data Minimization falls short of the “need” test. These social platforms do not adhere to the requirement set by one of our seminal rulings. Furthermore, article of the Indian Constitution is violated by the arbitrary manner in which these social media platforms preserve and share personal information.

Countries all over the world are facing similar difficulties with respect to regulating social media. All the EU citizens privacy and data protection is governed by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), an EU regulation. India’s regulatory structure reflects its distinct socio-political setting while also taking cues  from international standards. The dynamic and complex interaction that exists between Indian Law and social media is a reflection of the worldwide struggle to the constantly evolving digital world.

However, in order to comply with the IT Act these social media platforms have modified their policies and offerings. For instance, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other platforms have all established a grievance redressal process and an officer that users can contact with any questions or issues regarding their data privacy. A few more changes were made which did bring about a considerable difference, but they are not really sufficient because we can only envisage living in a safer environment when we are certain that we are protected from not just murderers but also from these excessively greedy corporates. Therefore, it is crucial to discuss tougher legislation that will make anyone who infringes the rights of another person accountable. The main objective of law enforcement should be to make these platforms safe. We may work toward harmonious setting that safeguards people from the dangers of the digital era while promoting the free flow of knowledge.

By Moukthika (Intern)

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