Modern nation-states use advanced & new technology to increase their hold on power . One way of maximising power is to snoop the citizens by using surveillance technology. Many aspects of Surveillance Technology are being misused by the state for its vested interests. Excessive and illegitimate use of surveillance technology puts the national security of state at risk. Rights of the citizens are infringed and violated by using it in illegal manner. Digital technology is becoming more intrusive and we are trapped in a virtual panoptican in the form of digital technology. Modern state’s use of surveillance methods is not something new and its roots could be traced back to ancient and medieval period as well. The only difference is of technology. British political theorist and philosopher, Jermy Bentham, has given the idea of institutional building which he calls ‘panoptican ‘ , in which he states how inmates can be observed without letting them know that they are being observed . Continental philosopher, M. Foucault in his 1975 book ‘ Discipline and Punishment ‘ has elaborated on Beetham’s idea of panoptican. Foucault views the surveillance as a method to bring about docility among citizens such that they would internalise power and don’t question the state . The supreme court of India in its 2017 puttaswamy case had included Right to privacy as a fundamental right under Article 21. However state has still authority to breach it in exceptional cases under Indian telegraph act 1885, information Technology act 2000 , and many clauses under CrPC also authorise the state for it . The massive use of Pegasus spyware by the Indian state has drawn much criticism from the academic circles, Rights activists and opposition parties.
Citizens must get united on the illegitimate use of surveillance technology and opposition can also play its role by holding the collar of government. People of India have got rights after multiple and massive struggle, so they must not surrender the right to privacy for pleasing their masters in government.
The ruling regime instead of answering responsibly resorts to different pretexts and hence has not cleared the air hitherto. The tragedy is that when pegasus spyware is used to surveil the heads and members of constitutional bodies, journalists and dissenters. It has raised a big question mark on the moral legitimacy of this government. It also indicates the level of mistrust between the rulers and ruled. Privacy is not just about hiding something or keeping something confidential rather It is an essential component of dignity and respect of citizen’s life. Government must stop acting like a coloniser and should treat people as citizens and not as subjects. Citizens must get united on the illegitimate use of surveillance technology and opposition can also play its role by holding the collar of government. People of India have got rights after multiple and massive struggle, so they must not surrender the right to privacy for pleasing their masters in government.
(The writer is masters in Political Science from Central University of Kashmir. Views are exclusively his own)