Latest Updates on Privacy – November, 2021 – Part I

This is a rundown of last week’s news updates on Privacy:

Supreme Court sets up a committee to look into the Pegasus matter

The Apex Court has ordered for the establishment of an independent three-member expert committee to investigate claims of pervasive and targeted monitoring of politicians, journalists, and activists through the Pegasus spyware. The committee will be overseen by retired Supreme Court judge Justice RV Raveendran. The committee will look into whether the Pegasus spyware was used to access stored data of Indians, eavesdrop on their conversations and for other purposes. The committee will also make recommendation in areas of privacy of individuals and institutions, enactment or amendment of existing laws etc.

Facebook announces shutting down of facial recognition system

Social media giant Meta Platforms Inc (formerly known as Facebook) has announced that it will discontinue its face recognition system, which automatically recognises individuals in images and videos, citing rising social concerns about the use of such technology. It will also delete the faceprints of more than 1 billion people. The move comes amid the intense scrutiny and criticism being faced by the corporation after a whisteblower leaked internal documents indicating safety and privacy abuses on its platforms.

Internet Freedom Foundation sends notice to Hyderabad Police Commissioner over concerns of privacy invasion

After news of Hyderabad police stopping people and checking their WhatsApp chats went viral, Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) has sent a legal notice to Commissioner of Hyderabad Police along with Srinivas Kodali, asking for a stop on the forceful ‘mass surveillance’. According to reports, Hyderabad Police was stopping citizens without any legal authority to check their phones and searched for keywords like ‘ganja’, ‘weed’, ‘stuff’ etc. in their chats. The organisation claims that the ‘illegal’ searches are a ‘Mass-Scale Invasion of Citizens’ Privacy’ and has asked the Police Commissioner to take disciplinary actions under the Hyderabad City Police Act.

China passes new data privacy law

China’s National People’s Congress has officially passed the Personal Information Protection Law (PIPL) on 1st November. The law aims to make substantial changes in China’s privacy regime, requiring companies doing business in China to obtain “informed and separate consents from the data subjects” for collecting, processing, and cross-border transferring their personal data. The law gives users the opt-out rights for targeted advertising, and also limits the use of facial recognition technology which will now be used “for specific purposes and only when sufficiently necessary.” Fines in the law can reach 50 million Chinese yuan (about $7.8 million U.S. dollars) or 5 percent of a violating company’s annual revenue.
Authored by Rohan Joshua Jacob (Associate) and Anjali Shekhawat (Intern).

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