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Expats, tourists may also get right to privacy

Last updated on: June 22, 2011 13:13 IST

Expats, tourists may also get right to privacy

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Surajeet Das Gupta in New Delhi

The Right to Privacy Bill may cover all individuals in India irrespective of whether they are citizens of the country or not.

This means foreigners who work in India and tourists from abroad will enjoy the same privacy rights as Indian citizens.

The decision was taken at a meeting of the committee of secretaries (CoS) called by the cabinet secretariat a few weeks ago.

The CoS members said just as every person living in India had a right to life and liberty, the right to privacy should cover every individual in India.

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The government decided to introduce the Bill after the leak of corporate lobbyist Niira Radia's telephonic conversations.

Tata Sons chairman Ratan Tata, who was in some of those conversations, moved the Supreme Court and argued that the leak infringed his right to life, which included his right to privacy.

The CoS also decided to exempt journalistic publications.

It also suggested a few exemptions related to protection of sensitive personal data.

It proposed that insurance companies be allowed to access the health data of individuals and employers the banking and financial data of their employees.

It also agreed on strong provisions to check unsolicited commercial communication.

This will curb spam emails that fraudsters use to get financial information from individuals.

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Image: Ratan Tata.
Photographs: Reuters
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The CoS also wanted a list of agencies that could intercept phone calls.

The circumstances under which a communication can be intercepted and the authorities that can order such interception should also be detailed, according to the CoS.

However, the Prime Minister's Office has made it clear that surveillance by intelligence agencies for national security should not be hampered.

The members pointed out that intelligence gathering for security purposes would be exempted.

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The CoS suggested that while there should be a provision on CCTV coverage and other methods of surveillance, the right to privacy should not apply to images captured in a public place as the individual concerned is well aware that he is at such a place.

The members also wanted more clarity on sharing of information among government departments.

The CoS also decided to set up a council to advise the government on data privacy issues.

It was also agreed that the cyber tribunal set up under the Information Technology Act should be designated as the appellate tribunal for the purpose of this Bill.

A data protection authority with powers to punish offenders was also proposed.



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