#SaveOurPrivacy: How You Can Support The Campaign That’s Fighting To Protect Your Data

I agree to the Terms & Conditions.”

In the last 12 years, I’ve ticked this box more times than there are grains of sand on a beach, and I’ll wager you’re guilty of it too.

When so much of what we do, what services we access, and how we share information online, requires agreeing to terms and conditions, too many of us seek the instant gratification of “payment successful” or “successfully installed”, over our own privacy. Yes. Have you ever stopped to think about all the details you share about yourself online? And no, I’m not talking about your rambling Instagram stories or restaurant check-ins on Facebook. At least not just those two things alone.

Beware The Ides Of Data Breach

Today, a majority of the world runs on data. There are attempts to make technology and data-driven services available to citizens in rural areas, where this was previously unheard of. Pretty soon, electronic and online commerce (and subsequently data collection) will become as essential a part of life as air, food, water, and shelter. But we really need to ask if we’re shooting ourselves in the foot by putting all our personal details out there.

If you just recalled a rant by a parent about how ‘the internet people’ can misuse your photos, instant messages, your accounts on various social media networks, just stay with that thought, because they’re not speaking gibberish. Our data privacy is under threat.

The Law We Need

A team of young lawyers and policy researchers are campaigning to #SaveOurPrivacy. They are Apar Gupta, Gautam Bhatia, Kritika Bhardwaj, Maansi Verma, Naman M. Aggarwal, Praavita Kashyap, Prasanna S., Raman Jit Singh Chima, Ujwala Uppaluri, and Vrinda Bhandari. Together they have prepared a model draft bill, called the Indian Privacy Code 2018, which is currently open for review, suggestions and endorsement.

Drawing on the Privacy (Protection) Bill 2013, two Supreme Court expert committee reports (here, and here), and one judgements, the model draft bill is an impressive nine-chapter document. It contains fair, transparent, and binding provisions around data privacy, and the rights and duties of Data Subjects (that’s folks like you and me), Data Collectors (any service that requires your personal information to fulfill its purpose), and the State.

From Your Late Night Pizza Orders, To Your Postpaid Plans

All your data exploits online are potentially risky activities. Any time we go online for our goods and services, we provide all kinds of personal information. The same goes for data required by the government in the form of the Aadhar Card. Did you know eight out of 10 people are fearful of what could happen with it? A study by Velocity MR confirms it.

As the campaigners say, “We support the use of digital technologies for public benefit. However, they should not be privileged over fundamental rights.” Without clearly defined provisions on how personal data can be obtained, stored, and protected, data collection simply isn’t compliant with The Right to Privacy, guaranteed in Chapter III of the Indian Constitution.

So, what does it take to #SaveOurPrivacy?

1: Consent Is Key

One of the most important requirements in the model bill (a) is consent. The model bill says a data collector cannot obtain any bit of information without the express consent of a data subject, and in written. Consent has to be obtained only after the data subject is thoroughly informed of the purpose, any costs incurred, the risks, and any other alternatives to the service. This is especially important for minors, aged 13 and up.

There are, of course, people who may be unable to give consent, because of illiteracy, loss of hearing or sight, or other medical reasons, as well as people who are legally missing or dead. The model bill provides for this too.

The bill provides that consent can be obtained without consent only in specific situations, such as needing a medical emergency service, and to prevent, investigate, or prosecute a cognisable offence. However, it also states that a state Privacy commission can do this “as per provisions relating to interception and surveillance”, presumably for national security reasons.

2: Data Collectors Stay In Their Lane

In addition to guaranteeing transparency, the model bill also requires that only relevant information must be provided. In other words, details that do not serve the purpose or function of the service should not be disclosed.

If data collectors breach protocol, the bill says data subjects are entitled to do the following: alter, rescind, or withdraw their consent, hold the collector liable and ask for exemplary damages, and request that the wrongfully obtained data be destroyed.

3: Keeping Data Safe

For data that is correctly gathered, its existence will also be bound by rules that protect the individual.

If this bill is passed as a law, it will cover two kinds of data – everything that was collected prior to its enforcement, and everything collected subsequently.

For the former, it is recommended that it be “anonymised in such manner as to make re-identification of the data subject absolutely impossible.

But for data in general, the bill says it must be destroyed as soon as it has served its purpose and function. The respective data subject must be informed of the same. In fact, the only time a data collector is allowed to store the information is when a data subject has directly granted permission to do this.

4: No Holding Data Subjects At Ransom

For those of you who use apps like PayTM or Ola, remember the frustration of having your accounts blocked until you completed that friggin’ KYC form? Now, take that situation, and magnify it a hundred times. For a data subject who cannot provide a certain type of data, they could lose access to food from the public distribution system, to social security, and to benefits under the MNREGA scheme.

To prevent such a cruel situation, the model bill states that data collectors must accept alternative forms of identification. The only time they can insist on a particular detail is if/when they can prove that its unavailability will cause “grave and irreparable injury.”

YOU Are A Stakeholder In This Fight

If you use goods and services in India, this should matter to you. You can either sign the pact with the devil, and give up on your privacy, or you can fight for your rights. The #SaveOurPrivacy campaign looks to every person for support. There are two big ways you can help. First, go through the bill and offer your comments and suggestions to the campaigners. The above mentioned points are only a few highlights, and we would all do well to do a close reading of the document. And second, signal boost this model draft bill on your social media – yes, those very platforms on which the battle for privacy is to be fought! Because this is going to take a concerted effort on a grand scale.

Click here to pledge your support for the campaign, and share this article forward!
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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.

Read more about his campaign.

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.

Read more about her campaign. 

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.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

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.

Read more about the campaign here.

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.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

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.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’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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