Right to Information (RTI) & Privacy: Congruent or Contradictory?

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Anita Gurumurthy took part in a panel discussion on ‘Right to Information and Privacy: Congruent or Contradictory?’ on 16 November 2023 at 3 PM IST. The event was organized by the Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI).

Anita was joined by an expert group of panelists, including Shailesh Gandhi, RTI activist and former Central Information Commissioner; Apar Gupta, Founding Director, Internet Freedom Foundation; and Advocate Shalu Nigam, Visiting Senior Fellow, IMPRI. The discussion will be chaired by Prof. Vibhuti Patel, Visiting Distinguished Professor, IMPRI.

Anita's input  highlighted the interconnectedness of the right to information and privacy, emphasizing their synergy rather than contradiction. In the digital era, where private realms extended into the public domain, the ideals of seeking information, sharing experiences, and fostering democracy were challenged by surveillance capitalism. A paradox emerged as personal data was unknowingly used for social control, limiting genuine pluralism and democracy in the public sphere. Anita questioned the balance between public and private, urging for spaces of contested ideas in the public domain and sanctuaries for individuality in private spaces.

In the context of India's digital landscape, Anita raised concerns about the sweeping exemptions for the state in the Digital Personal Data Protection Act. The amendments created a "Transparency paradox," where citizens were perpetually transparent, yet their right to scrutinize power was undermined. This not only eroded the public realm but also subverted privacy, discouraging citizens from contesting breaches of their rights. Anita emphasized that the deepening of democracy required both the right to information and privacy, allowing citizens to speak truth to power and cultivate personal spaces free from intrusion. Ultimately, she highlighted the need to challenge the digitalization marketplace to ensure effective privacy laws that genuinely contribute to the democratization of information.

Know more about the event here and watch the recording of the session here.