Digital freedom

Facebook’s latest Government Requests Report shows India made 6,324 requests for user data in 2016, a substantial increase over 5,115 requests in 2015


Govt surveillance of online activity is a global reality. But if the govt, in turn, has to be kept in check, courts and civil society must do their bit. Photo: Bloomberg
Govt surveillance of online activity is a global reality. But if the govt, in turn, has to be kept in check, courts and civil society must do their bit. Photo: Bloomberg

Facebook’s latest Government Requests Report, released over the weekend, had a number of interesting takeaways. In the January-July period, Indian authorities made 6,324 requests for user data from Facebook. This was the second-highest number of requests in the world after the US, and a substantial increase over the 5,115 requests it made a year earlier.

But here’s the encouraging bit—as against the 15,155 pieces of content blocked after government requests in January-July 2015, only 2,034 were blocked this year. At least some of the credit for this must go to the Supreme Court, which acted against the most draconian provisions and interpretations of the Information Technology Act’s relevant clauses last year.

Its judgement, however, failed to adequately address a number of overly restrictive clauses still on the books. Government surveillance of online activity is a global reality. But if the government, in turn, has to be kept in check, courts and civil society must do their bit.

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