1.Rights in the age of big data (The Hindu)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of privileging individual rights over innovation. (GS paper III)


  • Debates on permission-less innovation, social leapfrogging facilitated by technology, and challenges to the legal order have now acquired greater urgency, shifting from academia to law-making.
  • Concerns are being voiced this month in several Indian cities by members of the public, civil society groups, academic experts and technologists, think tanks, industry associations and technology companies to a committee headed by Justice B.N. Srikrishna, a former Supreme Court judge, tasked with making recommendations and drafting a data protection law.

The Artificial intelligence

  • McCarthy, an influential computer scientist and professor at Stanford coined the term, “artificial intelligence”, and nurtured it into a formal field of research.
  • The artificial intelligence is the simulation of human intelligence processes by machines, especially computer systems. These processes include learning (the acquisition of information and rules for using the information), reasoning (using the rules to reach approximate or definite conclusions), and self-correction.

The data protection law

  • The committee headed by Justice B.N. Srikrishna holds immense promise but a white paper it published, the primary public document on the basis of which public comment is solicited, gives reason for concern. The broader framing of the document proceeds from a premise of weighing the scales between Individual Rights and Technological Innovation.
  • In the white paper, the first few pages note the rationale of the committee “to harness the benefits of the digital economy and mitigate the harms consequent to it”, but in the subsequent paragraphs provide further explanation that “Since technologies such as Big Data, the Internet of Things, and Artificial Intelligence are here to stay and hold out the promise of welfare and innovation, India will have to develop a data protection law to ensure a balance between innovation and privacy.”
  • The framework of the trade-off between the demands of technological innovation and individual rights is a terrible bargain for our future. It presumes to hold both fundamental rights and innovation as somewhat equal, or at the very least as competing values. This appears contrary to the context and the mandate of the committee, as well as principles of individual liberty.
  • The Justice Srikrishna Committee was formed on data protection, in the midst of Supreme Court hearings on the fundamental right to privacy in the PuttaswamyThe judgment asserts that the right to privacy exists as a natural right inherent in all fundamental rights of the Constitution. At the root of this is the liberty of the individual that finds expression through concepts such as autonomy and dignity, choice and freedom.
  • Justice Chandrachud further noted that privacy has positive and negative features, where it restrains “an intrusion upon the life and personal liberty of a citizen”, and also requires “an obligation on the state to take all necessary measures to protect the privacy of the individual”.
  • The privacy protections that limit state intrusion and data protection laws should shield individuals rather than commercial interests or technological innovation. By avoiding a binary bargain between the benefits of rights and technology, a sound legislation would further innovation as a social goal that serves human needs. It would make big data subject to greater legality, the Internet of Things best suited to the Internet of people, and artificial intelligence subject to natural rights.

To forge such an understanding, a fundamental acknowledgement has to be forthcoming that technology is a means, and not the end in itself. It must exist and work within the framework of the rule of law.

  • A practical way to operationalise individual choice in a data protection law is for the Srikrishna Committee to take the benefit of past expert efforts. Most noticeably by the Justice A.P. Shah Committee which a little over five years ago proposed nine privacy principles acting on a “fundamental philosophy” of “ensuring that the privacy of the data subject is guaranteed”.
  • The A.P. Shah Committee recommended that “the Privacy Act should not make any reference to specific technologies and must be generic enough such that the principles and enforcement mechanisms remain adaptable to changes in society, the marketplace, technology, and the government.”
  • However, such existing recommendations proceed from a clear acknowledgement of data protection protecting individuals and not about protecting innovation, state interests for welfare objectives, or commercial interests of technologists and corporations.
  • The Aadhaar project, which aims to usher a data-driven revolution in the private sector and at the same time act as a state policy panacea, has become a topic of continuing public concern. Repeated press reports indicate continuing data breaches, exclusion and theft of benefits, lack of legal remedies and the prospect of profiling and surveillance.

Way ahead

  • The Data protection legislation should be about protecting people, not innovation, as sufficient evidence exists today persuading us to honour constitutionalism, privileging individual rights over innovation.

Ques-“A fundamental acknowledgement has to be forthcoming that technology is a means, and not the end in itself.” In this context explain why data protection legislation should be about protecting people, not innovation?


2.The duty of the young (The Indian Express) 

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of importance of youth for country’s development. (GS paper II and paper IV)


  • More than 50 per cent of India’s population is below the age of 25, and more than 65 per cent below 35. Given that democracy is the will of the majority, and the majority of India’s population nearly 400 million voters are the youth, it is essential to look at the way this majority can be harnessed to participate in democracy and contribute towards the development of the country.
  • India on January 12 celebrated ‘The National Youth Day’ on the occasion of the great youth icon Swami Vivekananda’s birthday. Around this day, the nation must take stock of the status of the youth of the country, on whom depends the future of our democracy. The January 2018 also marked for very important day for Indian democracy, people born in the 21st century became eligible to vote. As rightly said that- 

‘Democracy cannot survive without both citizen’s participation and politician’s accountability.’

The right to vote

  • One of the most important ways to participate in democracy and contribute towards the development of the country is by exercising their right to vote. The right to vote is not just a right enjoyed by every individual over the age of 18years, but it is also a responsibility to make an informed and responsible choice and to bring to power the well-suited candidate.
  • For a long time, there has been a trend to vote for people who give the maximum amount of freebies in return. Instead of following this path, the youth must make a conscious decision to vote on the basis of the agenda of the candidates and their past work.

The absent participation 

  • In the book,An Undocumented Wonder: The Making of the Great Indian Election (2014), it had been pointed out that the youth, who should be the most important participants in the Indian democracy, are mostly absent from the daily discourse on democracy.
  • While they are visible at protest marches, in cricket grounds, at music concerts, cultural events, and can be seen blocking roads, stopping trains, throwing stones, burning tyres and raving and ranting against corruption and bad governance, when the time comes to actually participate in the decision-making process and change the system and its culture by electing the right leaders, most of them disappear.
  • The Election Commission through a programme called Youth Unite for Voter Awareness (YUVA), argued that the best way to convert a country’s demographic dividend into democratic dividend is through the mass participation of youth in elections. National Voters Day (NVD), celebrated on January 25, was launched as an annual event dedicated to youth.
  • This programme seeks to create an enlightened movement of voters who see voting as an opportunity to bring about change, who are aware of their role and are neutral with respect to caste, religion, community or other identity differences, those who have their own views about a party and its performance and change their preference from election to election if needed.
  • The NVD not only encourages the youth to enrol in huge numbers and vote without fail but also seeks to involve them in increasing awareness amongst other voters.

Way ahead

  • As most of the youths are not aware about the socio-economic problems facing the nation today, it is the responsibility of civil society organisations and the media to educate young people about the issues involved and their high stakes in the fruits of development.
  • It is important to remember that instead of always pontificating to the youth about their role and responsibilities, political leaders should remind themselves of their own role to fulfil the needs and aspirations of the youth, particularly with respect to jobs.

Ques-With the “New India Youth”, participation in the Indian democracy, the country will be corruption and casteism free. Analyse.