Internet users have created information far more than humanity ever created. Facebook knows our friends, Uber knows our location and Alibaba knows our shopping habits. These were the observations made by Justice Sanjay Kaul who was part of the nine-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court which delivered the historic right to privacy verdict on Thursday.
"Uber knows our whereabouts and the places we frequent. Facebook at the least, knows who we are friends with. Alibaba knows our shopping habits. Airbnb knows where we are travelling to," Justice Kaul observed.
All the information, is available with these entities although Uber, the world's largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. "Facebook, the world's most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world's largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate," Justice Kaul said.
As we move towards becoming a digital economy and increase our reliance on internet-based services, we are creating deeper and deeper digital footprints - passively and actively.
"These digital footprints and extensive data can be analyzed computationally to reveal patterns, trends, and associations, especially relating to human behavior and interactions and hence, is valuable information. " The collation of all such information leads to creation of 'big data' which can then be exploited for targeted advertising, he said.
"Knowledge about a person gives a power over that person. The personal data collected is capable of affecting representations, influencing decision making processes and shaping behaviour. It can be used as a tool to exercise control over us like the 'big brother' State exercised."
"Our Government was successful in compelling Blackberry to give to it the ability to intercept data sent over Blackberry devices. While such interception may be desirable and permissible in order to ensure national security, it cannot be unregulated," he said.