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IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad Says that India Will Not Accept Data Imperialism

IT Ministry officials, however, had said that the WhatsApp information was general and patchy

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Ravi Shankar Prasad
Ravi Shankar Prasad emphasised that any data protection law must be technology agnostic, must be based upon element of free consent, no abuse of consent beyond the permissible limits, requisite data protection authorities and a fair mechanism for data processing. Wikimedia Commons

Indicating the Centre’s unhappiness over the latest reports of security breach in WhatsApp that also compromised Indian users, IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Wednesday said India takes the issue of privacy, especially informational privacy, seriously and data imperialism would not be tolerated.

Addressing the Commonwealth Law Ministers’ conference in Colombo, Prasad articulated India’s approach and stand with regard to data protection, according to an official statement.

“We are living in the age of Information Technology (IT) and data is going to play a very crucial role in the digital economy discourse. In India we view privacy seriously and informational privacy is also integral to that. It means a person must have control over his data and its commercial usage”.

He elaborated on the entire evolution of data law in India, the recommendations of the Justice Shri Krishna Committee, the public consultations and said that the government is looking at tabling Bill on the matter in Parliament.

Prasad emphasised that any data protection law must be technology agnostic, must be based upon element of free consent, no abuse of consent beyond the permissible limits, requisite data protection authorities and a fair mechanism for data processing.

There is a need to balance innovation and enterprise in data but with due regard to privacy, the Minister said, adding that data economy both in terms of commercial use and employment will play a crucial role.

According to the statement, Prasad noted that while a large amount of data is being generated in developing and underdeveloped countries, but the claim for processing it is being emphasized only by the developed world.

The Minister cautioned against any attempts at data monopoly. He said that any attempt to create monopoly on data by few companies and few countries, or data imperialism, will not be acceptable.

Prasad also articulated India’s initiatives of Digital India, Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) and digital inclusion.

Ravi Shankar Prasad
Indicating the Centre’s unhappiness over the latest reports of security breach in WhatsApp that also compromised Indian users, IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Wednesday said India takes the issue of privacy, especially informational privacy, seriously and data imperialism would not be tolerated. Wikimedia Commons

The Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland appreciated India’s stand and endorsed the country’s approach for equity in data management.

After messaging company WhatsApp recently disclosed that an Israeli spyware had targeted Indian users as well, an irate Indian government asked the company to explain the breach and why the Indian government had not been informed.

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WhatsApp sources countered this by saying the Indian government had been alerted twice, in May and September.

IT Ministry officials, however, had said that the WhatsApp information was general and patchy. (IANS)

Next Story

This AI System Can Evade Censorship In India, China and Kazakhstan

Researchers develop an AI tool that evades censorship in India, China and Kazakhstan

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(AI)-based system automatically learns to evade censorship in India, China and Kazakhstan. Pixabay

Researchers have developed an Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based system that automatically learns to evade censorship in India, China and Kazakhstan.

The tool, called Geneva (short for Genetic Evasion), found dozens of ways to circumvent censorship by exploiting gaps in censors’ logic and finding bugs that the researchers said would have been virtually impossible for humans to find manually.

The researchers are scheduled to introduce Geneva during a peer-reviewed talk at the Association for Computing Machinery’s 26th Conference on Computer and Communications Security in London on Thursday.

“With Geneva, we are, for the first time, at a major advantage in the censorship arms race,” said Dave Levin, an assistant professor of computer science at the University of Maryland in the US and senior author of the paper.

“Geneva represents the first step toward a whole new arms race in which artificial intelligence systems of censors and evaders compete with one another. Ultimately, winning this race means bringing free speech and open communication to millions of users around the world who currently don’t have them,” Levin said.\

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This AI system that evades censorship is called ‘Geneva’. Pixabay

To demonstrate that Geneva worked in the real world against undiscovered censorship strategies, the team ran Geneva on a computer in China with an unmodified Google Chrome browser installed.

By deploying strategies identified by Geneva, the user was able to browse free of keyword censorship.

The researchers also successfully evaded censorship in India, which blocks forbidden URLs, and Kazakhstan, which was eavesdropping on certain social media sites at the time, said a statement from the University of Maryland.

All information on the Internet is broken into data packets by the sender’s computer and reassembled by the receiving computer.

One prevalent form of Internet censorship works by monitoring the data packets sent during an Internet search.

The censor blocks requests that either contain flagged keywords (such as “Tiananmen Square” in China) or prohibited domain names (such as “Wikipedia” in many countries).

When Geneva is running on a computer that is sending out web requests through a censor, it modifies how data is broken up and sent, so that the censor does not recognise forbidden content or is unable to censor the connection.

Known as a genetic algorithm, Geneva is a biologically inspired type of AI that Levin and his team developed to work in the background as a user browses the web from a standard Internet browser.

Like biological systems, Geneva forms sets of instructions from genetic building blocks. But rather than using DNA as building blocks, Geneva uses small pieces of code.

Censorship
By deploying strategies identified by Geneva, the user is able to browse free of keyword censorship. Pixabay

Individually, the bits of code do very little, but when composed into instructions, they can perform sophisticated evasion strategies for breaking up, arranging or sending data packets.

The tool evolves its genetic code through successive attempts (or generations). With each generation, Geneva keeps the instructions that work best at evading censorship and kicks out the rest.

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Geneva mutates and cross breeds its strategies by randomly removing instructions, adding new instructions, or combining successful instructions and testing the strategy again.

Through this evolutionary process, Geneva is able to identify multiple evasion strategies very quickly, said the study. (IANS)