Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Radia Tapes, Privacy and why You should be scared.

I was searching around a little for my previous blog post when I got into reading about this whole Radia Tapes controversy. 

A few little known facts: 
Tata Airlines, a division of Tata Sons Ltd. (now Tata Group) was founded by J. R. D. Tata in 1932 as Tata Sons.
In March 1948, after the Independence of India, 49% of the airline was acquired by the Government of India by force, with an option to purchase an additional 2%. 
In 1953 all airlines of India including Air India and Indian National Airways were nationalized to form Indian Airlines Corporation.

What is important is that we are talking about a respected Industrial group - The TATA Group - that was responsible for setting up our National Carrier. Mr Ratan Tata is said to have refused to pay bribes to set up a new airline.

I - having had a little time today - spent some time listing out all my conversations - over the last month - that I would never want made public. Think about it: in the confines of our homes and in the presence of our close friends and family we say things that are PRIVATE. We might just not like something, we might ask friends to help with something or we might ask someone to spy on Indian Representatives to the United Nations.

If there is one thing that the diplomatic cables leaked by Wikileaks and other 'Leaks' have taught us, its that private conversations can be embarrassing! 

Whats happening to Mr Tata and Ms Niira Radia is whats called Trial by Media [Trial by Media is a phrase used to describe the impact of television and newspaper coverage on a person's reputation by creating a widespread perception of guilt regardless of any verdict in a court of law.] 

These tapes were obtained by tapping Ms Radia's phone because, first she was suspected of Tax Evasion and later it was said that she was suspected of being a spy - So far I have been unable to find any evidence presented against her. 

By getting all excited about these Tapes we are validating the use of Trial By Media as a threat to the liberty of individuals in this country. 

In the words of Pastor Martin Niemöller:
They came first for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for me and by that time no one was left to speak up.

Protection Of Life And Personal Liberty

One of the things I have been reading a lot about is the Constitutional rights that we Indians have and more specifically our right to Privacy.

Image Courtesy: mollybennett ( ) 

Most of the people I have discussed this with come up with the question "Why are you afraid of being watched if you are not doing anything wrong?". My answer is always the same: Lets put a camera in your shower. Lets face it, each of us have certain things that we would like to keep private and being law abiding citizens in a free nation such as ours we should have the right to do just that.

Here are some of the aspects of privacy and what it would mean to not have them:

Information Privacy 
Without this your emails, letters, bank statements, love letters, perfomance reviews would be public.

Bodily Privacy
Without this anyone would be able to do any genetic and drug tests they want.

Territorial Privacy
Without this anyone would be able to walk into your house, place of work or anywhere else they please whenever they felt like it.

Its not anyone who can do these things but just those who have the authority right? Lets not forget the famous proverb: Quis custodiet custodes ipsos? ("Who watches the watchers?")