Propaganda and Privacy

The Right to Privacy is a Natural Right that flows from the Fundamental Right of the Right to Life and Liberty. It protects an individual from the scrutiny of the State in their home, of their movements and over their reproductive choices, choice of partners, food habits, etc. Therefore, any action by the State that results in an infringement of the right to privacy is subject to judicial review.

However one needs to note that the fundamental right to privacy is not absolute and will always be subject to reasonable restrictions. The State can impose restrictions on the right to privacy to protect legitimate State interests but only once it satisfies judicial scrutiny 

In recent times we have had a subtle onslaught on our sense of privacy thanks to modern technology and its myriad uses. It is a matter of debate if at all privacy can co-exist with the current capabilities of intelligence agencies to filter and analyse personal data .Technological companies such as Facebook, Google, Amazon all collect and filter individual data. 

Once filtered our data is often used for online propaganda and behavioural targeting.. It may be pertinent to remember that propaganda on social media spreads rapid information without the original publisher of content being held accountable. Also online platforms rarely bear legal responsibility for their contributions.

The speed of action and lack of accountability has made platforms like WhatsApp important sources of political propaganda, simultaneously offering anonymity for the source. Therefore online propaganda often blurs the distinction between harmful and legitimate and is more often than not dangerous. Its influence in deepening political prejudices, skewing political opinion and diluting informed political discourse should not be understated. But are our laws and institutions be up to the challenge of countering this phenomenon?

Another important element of the Right to Privacy is the Right to secret ballot or privacy in execution of democratic rights.. However it is a common practice to attempt to predict the electoral results prior to elections An opinion poll is a pre-election survey to gather voters’ views on a range of election-related issues. An exit poll, on the other hand, is conducted immediately after people have voted, and assesses the support for political parties and their candidates.

Both kinds of polls can be controversial if the agency conducting them is perceived to be biased. Critics say the projections of these surveys can be influenced by the choice, wording and timing of the questions, and by the nature of the sample drawn.Especially because of its controversial nature, the source of online or exit polls are very important. More often than not it is the media.

Yet political parties may also conduct such surveys. Recently an IVR recorded message was conveyed via telephone against a political party with a numeric option to pledge to go against it. Considering the fact that the calls were going to specific numbers, and options to pledge or not to pledge would be recorded, would this have a bearing on our Right to Privacy of electoral choice? One does wonder…

With evolution of technology and methodology lines keep getting blurred.It is easy for the common man caught up in daily chores to be caught unaware. To be caught in a propaganda exercise far beyond his understanding, and far beyond his ability to counter check. The need of the hour therefore is to continuously be cautious.. The cautious electorate can be the only remedy


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