In what could be termed as one of the biggest data breaches ever globally, the personal information of more than 50 million Facebook users was harvested for political gains by Cambridge Analytica. The data was exploited to woo millions of US voters. This has raised several questions about whether there is a need for a data regulating authority. Several cyber security professionals have raised the demand for a data regulator.
“A separate data protection authority is the need of the hour. Data protection crimes are increasing by the day. With data emerging as the new oil, the number of crimes we are expecting will shoot up. Cyber crimes have already increased by 300% over the past two years. The current bodies handling cyber crime cases, are already burdened with mainstream criminal cases. The number of crimes is too many and the number of adjudicating officers too less. In such a scenario, having a data protection authority which is competent to handle such cases is a brilliant idea,” says Advocate Puneet Bhasin, International Cyber Law Expert and Founder of Cyberjure Legal Consulting.
“One, Facebook collected the information provided by the people voluntarily, that is, when the people subscribed to their services. Honestly, no would have read the fine print of what they will do with this information as anyway if you decline you can’t move ahead. While the organization which took the information from Facebook, I am not sure, shared their real intent. They subscribed and used the data for generating actionable information. With data being the new oil, it is imperative whosever will be data controller (in this case Facebook) to know the intended purpose of use,” says Bharat Anand, Chief Technology Officer, Natgrid.
“Question is did the people (you, me and everybody) voluntarily agree to be manipulated, be psychologically profiled, or agreed to be test subjects in advanced mind manipulation. If yes, then FB or CA has done nothing wrong,” counters Amar Singh.
There is one more moot question. Does the data breach only involve social media? In fact, it can be in several other areas and carried out by other professionals.
“Data processors like a CA has to be equally made responsible for any such usage which doesn’t conform to the privacy undertaking of individuals. There are two more important aspects here: (a) With the world becoming increasingly digital, these instances are bound to increase hence the need for a data regulator,” adds Bharat.
The Facebook – Cambridge Analytica incident has served to highlight the fact that data is being used for purposes beyond the subscriber’s control and without telling them about it and shared with people they never imagined it would be shared with. The consumer is finally realizing how each of their online actions are being recorded, tracked, and analyzed. All this is being used to manipulate thoughts and opinions as well as predict behavior.
“People have to be careful, cautious and be ready for the eventuality that if they miss reading the fine print.
“Unfortunately, it has become more like a force major. If you want to subscribe, you have to agree to the Terms & Conditions. So the question here is how much to share. My advice is be diligent. And by the way, this is happening with Facebook alone but all providers including Google. The result set is basically changing or manipulating user behavior,” says Bharat Anand.
Is it time to hit the panic button?
“So far only one example has come to light. All of us have given consent to many other applications via social platforms. This information is being manipulated in multiple ways since the past many years. It is time that Data Privacy laws are enacted with Privacy by Design and Privacy by Default concepts embedded,” says Sapan Talwar, CEO, Aristi Ninja.
Opinion is divided on that front.
“Now everyone is concerned about being manipulated by social media and similar platforms. I completely agree. My question is: Can we and should we demand special regulations for the cyber world? The media has been used for manipulation since centuries. Most of the media houses are owned/influenced by political parties and big corporates. Aren’t we being manipulated anyways?” asks Ankur Jain of The Achilles. He has a point.
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