Uber to end post-trip tracking of riders

Uber Technologies Inc has decided to pull off the tracking feature from its app which allows it to track a customer up to five minutes post a trip.

Starting this week, ‘ability to share location data only while using the app’, will be rolled out to Apple Inc iPhone users. It comes at a time when Uber is trying to recover from a series of crises culminating in the ouster of Chief Executive Travis Kalanick and Dara Khosrowshahi, the CEO of travel-booking company Expedia Inc prepares to become Uber’s new chief executive, as reported by Reuters.

Joe Sullivan, Uber’s chief security officer, said that he and his team have been working to bring in better customer privacy at Uber since he joined in 2015.

The change comes in just two weeks after Uber settled a U.S. Federal Trade Commission complaint that the company unsuccessful in protecting the personal data of drivers and passengers and was deceptive about its efforts to prevent snooping by its employees.

Sullivan said, the location-tracking update will initially only be available to iPhone users, but Uber intends to bring this change to Android devices as well.

These changes are a part of a series of updates expected in the upcoming year to increase privacy, security, and transparency at Uber, Sullivan added.


Sources- Reuters and NDTV



Right to privacy becomes Fundamental

With a landmark judgement on Thursday, the Supreme Court rule that privacy is a fundamental right. The judgement added that this right is important because of its intrinsic nature to all the other fundamental rights in the Indian Constitution. This order affects 134 crore Indians, especially the ones who have their Aadhar number in the system. However, this judgement is currently not required to make the decision regarding Aadhar.

The apex court’s nine judges ruled that ‘Right to Privacy is an integral part of Right to Life and Personal Liberty guaranteed in Article 21 of the Constituion’, according to FirstPost. There have been previous judgements regarding the case. The current nine member bench overruled the judgement of the previous eight member bench in the MP Sharma case and the earlier six member bench in the Kharak Singh case.

According to The Economic Times, one of the judges, Justice Chandrachud said, “The purpose of infusing a right with a constitutional element is precisely to provide it a sense of immunity from popular opinion and, as its reflection, from legislative annulment. Constitutionally protected rights embody the liberal belief that personal liberties of the individual are so sacrosanct that it is necessary to ensconce them in a protective shell that places them beyond the pale of ordinary legislation. To negate a constitutional right on the ground that there is an available statutory protection is to invert constitutional theory”.

In the matter of the Aadhar card and the details of the citizens in the system, the hearing for the case was put on hold after the government rejected the opposition’s points against its nature. The current ruling government blames the previous one for bringing Aadhaar into the system without drawing lines and making rules.

The ruling cleared up doubts that the new fundamental right is just recognised now but has always been inherently in place due to the Fundamental Right to Life and Liberty and privacy being an intricate part of it. In the statement provided by the judges, the right to privacy is essentially the right to private space by an individual. however, all the conditions and loopholes with this fundamental right has not been released yet. The ruling however, did clarify the threshold of pervasiveness which can exist. This clarification is very important as it makes it clear to the public regarding their rights and not give into any authority’s rules.

This judgement has opened doors to decriminalise homosexuality. The judges’ report recommended to to bring down section 377. Justice Chandrachud wrote that even though the LGBTQ community is a minority in the country, it doesn’t mean that they do not deserve their dignity of privacy with regard to their sexual orientation.

In a week with many major judgements passed, the Indian judiciary has proven to be an example for liberty. However, only time will tell on how the right to privacy will be exercised by civilians as well as the government.

Sourced from India Times and FirstPost

The Dark Side of Social Media

social media

Remember the time when you got to know where your friend had gone for vacations only when they showed you printed photos over hot cups of tea? Or the time when you were not interrupted by Whatsapp group alerts when you were engrossed in reading a book?

Social media has taken us into a world where nothing is private anymore and we are constantly assailed with emails, pings and texts. Recently, Scott Simon, the host of the National Public Radio in the US, live-tweeted his mother’s death. Intimate details about her condition, his feelings and the last few painful hours of her demise were read by his 1.2 million followers. One of his tweet reads: “Mother asks, ‘Will this go on forever?’ She means pain, dread. ‘No.’ She says, ‘But we’ll go on forever. You & me.’”  Is privacy not important even in death? Is there nothing that we do not want to share with our virtual world anymore?

Even though social media has a great role to play when it comes to citizen journalism, and providing live feeds and taking part in petitions and protests, there is also a dark, sinister side to it. Apart from social media being used by companies and politicians to glorify themselves profusely, it is also a major part of our everyday lives. We have an almost compulsive need to share our opinions and views, and Tweet them, blog them or share them on our virtual walls. Newborn babies to pet dogs, we all have a compulsory Facebook profile now. Because not having that is equivalent to living under a rock. Our relationship status and the exact emoticon to express our precise mood are open for everyone to see.

What happened to keeping our personal lives private? There have been cases in India and beyond, where girls have been stalked, followed, cyberbullied and end even raped because people can now keep track of girls so easily due to the continuous use of applications like Foursquare and ‘checking-in’. As if we were not already living in a world of information explosion. We are not only bombarded with advertisements and e-mails, but also exposed to every waking thought of all the ‘friends’ we are connected with on the various social networking sites.

The new trend of sharing where and when exactly you are going to eat has led to a lot of problematic situations. A 16-year-old girl in Ohio was raped by a group of men and her pictures were circulated online. She committed suicide. Similar cases followed. How safe is our information once it goes on to a social media platform?

Social Media in our daily lives | Image: aneesoft.com

Girls are arrested for simply stating their opinions on Facebook. Shobha De receives attacks on her personal lives for posting a sarcastic Tweet. An Indian-American is insulted and called a terrorist by ignorant haters all over Twitter for winning a beauty pageant. Derek Media, a 31-year-old man in Florida in August posted a happy, smiling picture of him with his wife and daughter. A few hours later, he posted a status update saying, “I’m going to prison or death sentence for killing my wife. Love you guys miss you guys take care Facebook people you will see me in the news.”  What followed was a gruesome picture of his wife’s bleeding dead body with the caption ‘RIP Jennifer Alfonso.’  The photo was shared over 170 times for around 5 hours before it was pulled off the site. There were comments under the photo posted by their friends asking, “What happened Derek???” Is this what our lives have become now? A virtual, digital drama?

Is this a beginning of a world where situations like these are a normal occurrence? Crime, death, shocking revelations, epiphanies and secrets, all have a place on the social media. Through anonymous profiles and ‘Confession pages’, we are all trying to find our place in the crowd, shouting over the noise. Though there is transparency, the risks are high. There is one question which always comes to mind though, “If everyone is talking, then who is listening?”

India Spying on Indians

Image courtesy - i.huffpost.com
Image courtesy – i.huffpost.com

With debates about Internet confidentiality raging miles away in the U.S., India is developing its own system which permits its various intelligence agencies and even income tax officers swifter access to information on citizens held by telecoms and internet service providers. At a time when claims of colossal US digital probing beyond American coasts has sparked a worldwide outcry, this expanded surveillance in the world’s largest democracy – which, according to the government, will assure national security — has left privacy activists distressed and skeptical.

The Central Monitoring System (CMS) was announced in 2011, but since then, there has been no public deliberation and the government has been tight-lipped about its functioning or how it can safeguard the abuse of the system. Since April this year, the government started to silently roll out the system state-wise and eventually, it will be able to focus on any of the country’s 900 million land-line and mobile phone subscribers as well as 120 million internet users.

Officers have said that making details of the project public would curb its value as a covert intelligence-gathering tool. A senior telecommunications ministry official, who is directly involved in developing the project, told Reuters, “Security of the country is very important. All countries have these surveillance programmes.” He further advocated the need for an all-encompassing system like CMS by saying, “You can see terrorists getting caught, you see crimes being stopped. You need surveillance. This is to protect you and your country.”

This means that through this scheme, the government will be able to not only listen to, but also tape phone conversations, intercept e-mails and text messages, screen posts on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter and even trace search results on Google. In 2012 itself, India sent over 4,500 requests to Google Inc. for specific user data – the highest in the world after the U.S.

The CMS will eventually be able to focus on any of the country’s 900 million landline and mobile phone subscribers as well as 120 million internet users.

Now, security agencies need not seek court orders for inspection or depend solely on internet or mobile service providers to provide them with data. In the past, the government has detained people for critical social media posts, though there haven’t been any prosecutions.

So how far can an agency venture into an individual’s private life without breaching the individual’s right to privacy? Right to privacy, in some cases, is indirectly related to Freedom of Expression and modern invasion of privacy laws essentially protect people in four different ways: intrusion of solitude, public disclosure of private facts, false light, and appropriation. In 1948, the United Nations made the Universal Declaration of Human Rights laying down certain freedoms for the mankind.  Article 19 of the Declaration enunciates the most basic of these freedoms, thus: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression’, the right includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek and receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

The topic of free speech is one of the most contentious issues in liberal societies. If the liberty to express oneself is not highly valued, as has often been the case, there is no problem: freedom of expression is simply curtailed in favour of other values. Free speech becomes a volatile issue when it is highly valued because only then do the limitations placed upon it become controversial.

Minister of State for Information Technology, Milind Deora, asserted that the new data collection system would in fact, develop citizens’ privacy since telecommunications companies would no longer be directly involved in the observation – only certified government officials would.