In episode one of The ID Question, we looked at India’s Aadhaar system and what happens when a single ID is tied to basic rights—like access to education. This week, we zero in on a pervasive theme from the previous installment: privacy.
Privacy concerns are a major part of modern digital life; data breaches are becoming more common and victims often have no knowledge of how their data is being used. As we move more of our lives online, we struggle to maintain control over our own data, often sacrificing sovereignty for convenience.
In this episode, Padmaparna Ghosh talks to the victims of digital identity theft, online privacy experts, and more, exploring the questions we need to ask of ourselves and the public and private organizations that control our data today.
When Anantha Subramanian got a new email address in 2004, he soon found himself living other people’s lives. “I started getting all kinds of emails, including sensitive material, meant for other people with the name Anantha,” says Subramanian, an IT engineer who lives in Chennai, India. “One Anantha Laxmi Talluri, a real person, decides to get a bank account and uses my email ID as hers. I start getting her bank statements. The same with telecom companies: I get emails for six or seven numbers, even though I have one number.”
A week before we spoke, he’d received an email about someone’s insurance claim: details of the incident, phone numbers, an address. No one is verifying these email IDs, which mystifies him. As an IT engineer, he’s especially concerned with how data is collected—and how it’s maintained—both by private companies and the government. “The system,” he says, “is flawed.”
Despite his worries about digital security, Subramanian hasn’t left the web: He has Facebook and Twitter accounts, he makes purchases online, and he uses search engines even though he knows they track his proclivities. But he’s very concerned about digital privacy. He uses an ad blocker, and browses the web incognito. “It may seem like I wear a tinfoil hat, but I take a few precautions on what I post and upload,” he says. “It might be misguided. But I have a sense of control.”
Read the full article here.