Online Privacy: IP Addresses and Expeditious Disclosure of Identity in India
29 Pages Posted: 30 Jun 2011 Last revised: 11 Mar 2014
Date Written: June 30, 2011
Over the past decade, the internet has frequently been used in India for the perpetration of a range of ‘cyber crimes’ – from extortion to defamation to financial fraud. In a revealing statistic, in 2010 the Mumbai police reportedly “received 771 complaints about internet-related offenses, 319 of which were from women who were the victims of fake profiles, online upload of private photographs and obscene emails.”
Law enforcement authorities in India have not exactly lagged behind in bringing these new age cyber criminals to book, and have installed special ‘Cyber crime cells’ in different cities to combat crimes on the internet. As even a casual Google search with the phrase “IP address, police, India” would reveal, police authorities in different cities in India have been quite successful in employing IP Address data obtained from web-services and ISPs to trace culprits.
However, along with its utility in the detection of crime, the tracking of persons by their IP addresses is potentially invasive of individuals’ privacy. In the absence of a culture of strict adherence to the ‘rule of law’ by the police apparatus in India, the unbridled ability to track persons through IP addresses has the potential of becoming an extremely oppressive tool of surveillance.
In this short note, I review the statutory mechanism regulating the retention and disclosure of IP addresses by internet companies in India.
Keywords: privacy, india, IP address, cyber crime, online, IT Act, police powers, summons, seizure, investigation, traffic data, data protection, intermediary liability, ISP license, google, facebook
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