Is anyone else reading your Tinder messages in India?

a hand holding phone

“How does privacy matter? Nobody is reading my messages and I am making the choice to put these messages out there on social media platform,” asks P, my friend  who seems to finally have cracked the Tinder Emojis.

Every  time I talk about privacy, people ask me what is there to hide? Every time I cover my camera on my laptop, people think I am being paranoid.

People don’t think there is anything called private data and if there is, it would simply be sensitive data that people would anyways not share. And worst I don’t think anyone realises that we don’t have a Privacy Law in India while Tinder India is busy making sansakri ads for its Indian audience and getting more users on a daily basis.

Sharing of personal details on social media platforms

We all have been sharing our information on most of the social media platforms. We happily share our locations, our private moments through images, our phone numbers, our email addresses, our travel plans There are so many platforms where  traces of our information gets saved up on different formats through chats, messages, sexting and in many other forms. Then there are spaces where we end up giving our information  because the design demands so. Additionally, now with introduction of Aadhaar we have all of our information linked to one common mobile number.

Have you received the message from your bank to link your account with Aadhaar number? Have you received the message from your network provider to link your account with Aadhaar number? Have you received the message from to link your account with Aadhaar? What if Tinder also gets into this?

Personal data linked to Aadhaar

All our different sorts of information is getting connected to one Aadhaar number : be it our bank details, medical details and in near future, may be even our dating details? People argue that all of this information is safely secure and this central repository is for our protection. It will keep us safe, while some call it convenience because life becomes easier with one uniform identity connecting all. But for many of us, there is a clear fear of lack of protection for all this data that is getting collected in the name of better infrastructure.

This is where the idea of ‘sensitive data’ gets muddled up. For some, it might be the information that they use on Tinder and for others, it might be information related to bank or medical office. Does all our data have equal protection under law?  What is this ‘sensitive data’ that people think require to be private? What if some of our sexting gets hacked or leaked out? Will state authorities actually protect our right to send messages to strangers on a dating app? Do we really have a say with regard to protecting our messages from hacking, stealing of information and any other form of cyber crimes?

No privacy law in India, at least not yet

Since 2010, it has been recognised by both the government and the public that India needs privacy legislation, specifically one that addresses use of personal data. At present some of the data protection standards are found in the Information Technology Act, 2002 as part of IT Rules, 2011. What really happens when someone does share/steal your information?

The Privacy (Protection) Bill, 2013 (‘Bill’) does not provide any definition of ‘privacy’, but includes sexual preferences as part of it.This definition is different and more enhanced from the definition provided under The Information Technology (Reasonable Security Practices and Procedures and Sensitive Personal Data or Information) Rules, 2011.  There is an assumption that consent would be taken from the user before collecting any of the sensitive data. The bill does provide for punishment if there is any violation.  He/she shall be punishable with imprisonment and may also be liable to fine. But this a Bill, in pending, until then the user’s data has no protection?

Privacy Bill is not just meant for activists, it should be the right of every citizen irrespective of whether or not their information is shared on any online platform. Abortion data might be as sensitive as bank details. Consent should be the basis for any sharing of information and every information needs to be protected.

A lot of sensitive information gets exchanged on dating platforms, on platforms where we are having a regular conversation. We might be flirting, sharing or just be sexting. This is all information that we would like only the parties involved to read. But if it does get leaked out, whom do we actually hold responsible?

People ask me to be more responsible while sharing information, for millions of Tinder users, I think so it is time to actually seek some accountability from all these stakeholders. We want our privacy! We dont our details to be linked to some number for better infrastructure. We want legal protection.

On 19th July, 2017  a constitution bench will decide whether there is indeed a fundamental right to privacy in India.  Even if we dont care about privacy as an issue, for all the Tinder users, this might just become a serious issue.

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