Twada privacy privacy, sadda privacy?
When Rushdie created Reverend Mother Naseem, the all-knowing mother in Midnight’s Children who could enter her daughters’ dreams at will, he wasn’t thinking of end-to-end encryption. We, the readers, weren’t worried either. It is not a very improbable situation, as mothers and daughters all over the world and across generations will tell you. Only, in this case Rushdie’s mastery had taken the sting out of realism, made it magical and elicited the good laugh. The privacy battle between WhatsApp and the Government of India is a hoot too, only sadly so, given that it is we, the people, and our privacy that is at stake.
That is all
It is hilarious because on one end of this privacy tussle is the Facebook-owned messaging platform, all sanctimonious, invoking right to privacy. And on the other end is the ruling BJP, demanding a change in the way the app is encrypted, all in the name of cracking down on fake news. Union information technology minister Ravi Shankar Prasad even said: “We are not seeking the content of the WhatsApp message. We only say who started the mischief. And if it has come from abroad, who picked it up in India first. That is all.”
Under the Carpet
Such a song and dance about privacy, such complicated legal wrangles. Almost all countries have legislation about privacy, around privacy, continuously evolving stratagem to puncture privacy. There is even a day earmarked for data privacy and it is celebrated in the United States, Canada, Israel and 47 European countries. To get back to the WhatsApp-GoI tussle and its laughability, mind you, earlier this month Facebook came under fire for removing/restricting pro-Palestine posts on Instagram and Facebook. In April, it hid posts with the hashtag “ResignModi”. It will not do to forget how the Adityanath-led BJP government in Uttar Pradesh has been cracking down on posts flagging Covid-19 treatment related complaints or pleas for help. When a man in UP’s Amethi tweeted saying he needed an oxygen cylinder, an FIR was lodged against him. And reportedly, the IT ministry working on instructions from the home ministry had Facebook and other social media platforms remove posts critical of the Centre’s handling of the pandemic. This is the same government that pulled up Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal for live-streaming his meeting with PM Narendra Modi on the state’s Covid-preparedness.
Reverend Mother Naseem breached her daughters’ dreams, true, but she did not act on the information. She contained the secrets within her person, kept swelling in the process, becoming dangerously stretched. Rushdie, rather cleverly, called the chapter ‘Under The Carpet’.