In 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic triggered governments across the world to instate lockdowns, several Indian states adopted digital contact tracing and the use of drones to monitor and map their citizens. Although this paved the way for social control through surveillance becoming the 'new normal', rampant news about information leaks and breaches by apps, spy softwares and social media platforms have awakened Indian citizens to how their privacy is being persistently compromised. With inadequate and outmoded laws for privacy, and disparate institutions normalizing privacy violations of personal information in the name of national security, apprehensions about individual data and the use it's being put to have hit a peak.
In What Privacy Means, Siddharth Sonkar analyses the history and understanding – both cultural and political – of privacy in India and establishes why objecting to interference with privacy is the pressing need of the day. Taking a deep dive into the grating realities of individual privacy, he explains how an Indian citizen's privacy is hardly 'private'. In the process, he urges us to question whether in India, where boundaries between the personal and public are increasingly becoming blurred, relationships of trust between governments, corporations and individual citizens can at all be rebuilt.
Today, when our privacy is in the process of being invaded, constantly and insidiously, Sonkar's incisive, revelatory and thought-provoking book provides a roadmap for everyone who is unsure of the rights they are entitled to as they continue to live their lives online.
'An important contribution to understanding the right to privacy in all its aspects, considering the technological advances made in tracking and surveillance.' – Justice Madan Lokur, former Judge of the Supreme Court of India
'A highly readable book on privacy and its discontents as it faces new challenges of intrusive technology without sufficient safeguards.' – Dr Rajeev Dhavan, Senior Advocate of the Supreme Court of India
'A World War against privacy is raging. Siddharth Sonkar's treatise on privacy is a call to arms, lest we lose our liberties and hard-fought democratic freedoms.' – Shyam Divan, Senior Advocate of the Supreme Court of India
'A timely and wide-ranging discussion on privacy rights in India, asking important questions about issues of contemporary relevance like surveillance and data protection.' – Justice A.P. Shah, former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court, chairperson of the 'Group of Experts on Privacy' constituted by Government of India in 2012
'By integrating popular narratives, scholarly texts and contemporary events, Siddharth has explained not only what privacy means, but also, why it is important to every Indian.' – Apar Gupta, Advocate and Executive Director, Internet Freedom Foundation
'In these times of spiralling debate around privacy, this book presents itself as a comprehensive argument for the importance of reforms in surveillance laws and their judicial implementation.' – Manish Tewari, Member of Parliament and Joint Parliamentary Committee on the PDP Bill, 2019
'A compelling read for anyone interested in knowing why adequate protection of one's informational privacy is a pressing need now more than ever before.' – Dr Amar Patnaik, Member of Parliament and Joint Parliamentary Committee on the PDP Bill, 2019
A must-read for every Indian citizen curious about their rights, particularly in the 'new normal' of the pandemic.
About the Author
Siddharth Sonkar is a technology, media and telecommunications (TMT) lawyer based out of Bangalore, with a specific interest in informational privacy. In his final year at law school, Siddharth led a group of students as coordinator of a student committee supervised by a faculty advisor, to submit comments to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019. The committee, on the basis of the comments, invited NUJS (National University of Juridical Sciences) to appear in-person to discuss the suggested changes, making NUJS one of the only academic institutions to be invited for an in-person appearance before the Committee to discuss changes to the proposed data protection law. When he is not writing, Siddharth spends his time listening to music, and playing with stray dogs and his guitars.