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If Apple Loses Its Fight To Retain Its Privacy, All Of Us Could Stand To Suffer

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inBy Shivani Chimnani:

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Tim Cook.

Over the past few decades, the whirlwind progress of information technology and IT managed services companies has been extraordinary and has profoundly changed our traditional notion of privacy. Privacy today is not merely confined to the invasion of one’s self or the physical space where he dwells but even to the technological commodities he owns ranging from smart phones, tablets, computers, laptops to an endless list of electronic devices possessing personal information.

In the quotidian course of life, an average individual indulges in multitudes of online transactions ranging from daily innocuous activities such as buying groceries, movie tickets, clothes, books to undertaking eminently sensitive activities such as investing in stocks, conducting banking transactions, etc. which generate an insurmountable amount of personal data. It is indisputable that the capacity, power, speed and impact of information technology is accelerating rapidly. There has been a paradigm shift from the use of analog data to virtual data for storing vast amounts of personal, professional and confidential information over the past few years.

On February 16, 2016, the US District Court for the Central District of California ordered Apple Inc. to assist the US government in unlocking the iPhone of one of the shooters involved in the terrorist attacks which took place in San Bernardino, California on December 2, 2015. US authorities were in possession of an iPhone that formerly belonged to the shooter, but the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) was unable to access the encrypted device. The court order required Apple to supply software to the FBI to disable a self-destruct feature that erases phone data after 10 failed attempts to enter the phone’s password. The FBI demanded that Apple make a new version of the iPhone operating system, circumventing several important security features including the fortified encryption feature, and install it on an iPhone recovered during the investigation.

Following this, the company’s chief executive, Timothy D. Cook, penned an earnest letter entitled ‘A Message to Our Customers‘ warning customers of far-reaching implications beyond the case and vowed to fight against the federal order and do everything in their power to protect their personal information, and safeguarding personal data. The letter further stated that if in the wrong hands, the software, which does not exist today, would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession.

On 20 February 2016, the US Department of Justice filed a motion to compel Apple to unlock the encrypted iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino shooters to which Apple filed an objection. Apple Inc. refused to comply with government orders to undertake such grave measures and continues to fight the battle to protect privacy.

Resultantly, Apple Inc. asked the US government to create a panel of experts to discuss issues of security versus privacy in light of the present legal dissension between the law enforcement agencies and the company. On March 4, 2016, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights warned US authorities of the dangers and far-reaching consequences of compelling tech companies to undertake measures compromising their clients’ privacy. He stressed the possibility of misuse of easy access to encrypted information threatening individual privacy.

This case has paved the way for a fierce debate splitting individuals into two sides of those demanding absolute protection of personal data and those favouring security and the cost of abdicating privacy. A vehement debate whether such momentous steps should be taken by Apple is still ongoing. A California federal court has been scheduled to hear the motion of objection filed by Apple on March 22, 2016.

The legal conundrum of choosing between privacy and national security has been haunting states and citizens for a few years now. The clash between the US government and Apple underlines the crux of the worldwide argument over surveillance. Mandatory data retention laws have greatly increased the scope of state surveillance, and thereby the scope for infringement of human rights. The panacea to this legal quandary lies in effective counterbalancing of rights of privacy and national security. However, the questions of what constitutes national security, what rights will an individual sacrifice at the cost of ensuring security, what protections will be afforded and where we draw the line between ensuring privacy and national security still linger.

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  1. janxinm

    As a major part of PRISM program ;
    how disgustingly hypocritical of Apple to act like a proponent of justice and privacy!
    Lots of millions earned from the program and their overpriced products. Tsk,Tsk,Tsk.
    Anyway, here they are mostly right.
    FBI can go to hell or North Korea.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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