Freedom and privacy on the Internet can be realised on basic principles of human rights and good governance

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In our day and age the internet embodies the dynamism that has come to be a part of the life of a great segment of global population. More than twenty-five billion people in the world use the internet, a global virtual network of communication and information exchange, for socialising, running businesses, buying goods and services and enhancing knowledge. There are payment gateways like Paypal, Visa, American Express which facilitate commercial transactions and there are social networking platforms such as Twitter and Facebook for people to socialise with people around the world. Online News portals, blogs, and Open-access journals and repositories are used for accumulating knowledge. In such a context it’s necessary to think of the best possible ways to ensure that the colossal amount of data created by our activities on this space should be protected along with the individuals’ freedom and integrity.
The issues that need attention
The ideal approach that the State should adopt vis-a-vis the internet has been a subject of debate since at least the 1990s. A prominent position in the whole debate emerged when John Perry Barlow wrote “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace” in 1996 which advocated complete independence of the internet from the bounds of State power, proclaiming the internet as the last bastion of free thought, knowledge sharing and expression where the users developed self-regulating practices. The internet users were “forming their own Social Contract” and did not require the force of the government to protect against abuses. The abuses perpetrated by many a government around the world either in the form of extensive dragnet surveillance of people’s metadata, as the NSA revelations have shown,...

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...-non of modern life. It is a medium of communication, social life, activism and information exchange and commercial transactions that produces a great amount of data about individuals using it. The protection of such data from state abuses is of paramount concern. This is especially so in the light of the recent revelations about the National Security Agency’s surveillance activities. The silver lining is that these revelations have brought focus back to the unaccountable monitoring and suppression of freedom on the internet that the state is capable of since a very long time. The opportunity that this renewed focus on protection of freedom and privacy brings with it can be best put to use when the principle of minimalist, limited government is recognised globally and multiple stakeholders apart from the state are given a greater say in how the internet is regulated.

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