Tag: on-line privacy

Public Tweets, privacy and necessity to be private in public eyes


When  the Bengali cinema lovers just woke up from the first shock of the death of the legendary actress Suchitra Sen, came the news of the death of Sunanda Pushkar Tharoor, better known to many as the wife of Dr. Shashi Tharoor, the extremely noticeable union minister of India. People were in awe of Suchitra Sen even when she was lying in Keoratola crematorium ground waiting to be cremated by her daughter. The main reason: she was an extremely personal lady and unlike many of her contemporaries, she neither appeared in public for more than twenty something years, nor did she encourage anyone to know more about her through the electronic media. She was not present in either Facebook or Twitter and no one knew how she looked like after she appeared in her last cinema. We, the generation who grew up watching  Big Bs getting older looks and new actors like Shah Rukh Khan and his contemporaries taking the stage from the older generation, hardly watched any Bengali cinema during the late 80’s or 90’s until Rituporno Ghosh brought back the magic of commercial Bengali cinema back to us in late 90’s and early 2000s. We, like our parents and grandparents, wanted to see Suchitra Sen and be in touch with her, but in vain. Internet and social media never appealed to her to get reconnected with her fans. But when she died on 17th January,2013 Facebook and Twitter were swept over by comments, condolences and pictures of her. I even came across “Suchitra Sen hot” key words in Google even though the images showed her two granddaughters who are also actors and not her in any such ‘hot scene’. Photographs of her exhausted and distressed daughter and mourning granddaughters in the crematorium were shared by many electronic news channels and these were hot favourite in the net on the day until suddenly the private lady was eclipsed by another very much public figure Sunanda.
          I loved watching Shashi and Sunanda’s photographs over the internet like million others. They were very much ‘public’ and I was one of Shashi Tharoor’s 2,050,605   followers in Twitter. Occasionally I used to  reTweet his very informative Tweets and like many others I took deep interest in  reading the family drama involving his ‘hacked Twitter account’, his wife and a Pakistani journalist( see http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/tharoor-makes-statement-about-marriage-after-wife-sunanda-s-twitter-outburst/article1-1173465.aspx) . I like million others, took him to be a public icon who should be ‘followed’, ‘watched’, talked about and criticised for his views. I obviously was not following Sunanda and I am sure, like me, there are many who started scrutinising her tweets for the first time when Shashi Tharoor gave a joint statement with her  regarding their marriage and  news channels started increasing their TRPs by publicising this. Interestingly, it was not Shashi Tharoor’s tweets which drew attention, it was Sunanda’s ones. Simultaneously, the Pakistani journalist involved therein  probably received millions of visitors for her tweets within a few hours as well. Some of Sunanda’s tweets and Pakistani journalist’s tweets did definitely provide a chain of blame game centring ‘a husband’ and  two women’s relationships with him. I instantly wondered how one can become so much public about one’s assumptions regarding personal relations. This incidence is not an example of bullying; I have seen many instances of death caused by Facebook bullying which were public and the death was caused mainly by the emotional stress the victim went through after realising what the audience (who are watching the bullying communication) would think about him/her. But this is definitely a very bold example of right to express oneself publicly and what could be the consequence in real life. Many academic researches on online victimisation have shown how a particular communication, seeing an unwanted image or even constantly thinking of the issue take a toll on the health of the victim. This may have played an important role in her ‘unnatural’ death along with other factors as are now being revealed by the police, doctors and also by the media. But the question is, does one really need to be this much public in the social media in certain cases even if he/she is a public figure?  Both Sunanda and the Pakistani journalist had pulled in lots of issues in their respective tweets and indeed the diplomatic relation of the two countries is also involved now. This is one brilliant example as how an issue which should have been a private affair, can draw more than desired attention because of the ‘public nature’ of  it. Some may say they are public figures and they should be transparent. But is this much transparency wanted especially when it has resulted in a death? Apart from personal Tweets, the investigation have  also started analysing  CCTV footage, personal text messages , emails that have been exchanged within all three of them. But as the criminal procedures and constitutional rights guarantee, some of such evidences would never be published respecting the right to privacy of the people involved. The ‘public Tweets’ may remain forever giving a sad example as how desire to remain in public eyes through publicly expressing personal thoughts may create an unwanted image which may never be broken and which can become chosen item for trolls for jeopardizing the situation more.
          India is undergoing a tremendous change in legal procedural codes in respect to media reports ( including reports, status updates or tweets by civil society members) of the crimes, privacy of the victim as well as the accused with the case of sexual harassment of law interns by judges. The transition may take our privacy law understandings to new heights which may have positive as well as negative implications. This case of Sunanda Tharoor may remotely add some contribution to the ongoing transition if and when the prosecution starts throwing light on the publicly expressed private comments in the social media and the ‘sharing’ of these by other fellow Tweet-handles. Nonetheless, this would remain an example as where to draw a limit line of privacy in the social media when one is very much public.
Please Note: Do not violate copyright of this blog. If you would like to use informations provided in this blog for your own assignment/writeup/project/blog/article, please cite it as “Halder D. (2014),Public tweets, privacy and necessity to be private in public eyes19th January,2014, published in http://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com/

Whose photo is it when you have a “cover photo” ?


Every year October brings in nice surprises: the weather changes, festive season starts and women feel more encouraged to stay fit to look good during the festive season. This enthusiasm makes one eager to do lots of outdoor activities and showcase the same in their social media profile cover pictures or profile pictures which would gradually become an identification mark for the profile owner; for example, I got to see beautiful nature photography, painting exhibitions, festive photos in numerous Facebook profiles, which were further shared by other specialised social media profiles meant exclusively for photography or for online painting exhibitions.  Nonetheless, these pictures may include human faces including the profile owners in their finest attires. Needless to say, cover photos or profile photos do provide a glimpse of what the user wishes to showcase to the world; I myself made a cover photo for myself which has my convocation photograph where I was receiving my Ph.d Degree from the hands of the Hon’ble Chief justice of India.   Well, this is the age of “sharing and viewing” and those who have social media profiles should expect minimum privacy when it comes to sharing their lives with their virtual friends. But does that mean that when the social media platform does not guarantee any privacy, our pictures or contents really become public properties?  Even though there are many research papers and works are available on this issue, I thought to contribute my own thought as well.
         As we all know, any social media is duty bound to provide privacy rights to the users. But at the same time, no service provider would actually allow a user to lock everything for him/herself. This defies the ultimate purpose of the social media, i.e. to connect and reconnect people. Hence every user is given options to choose privacy set-ups that a social media channel can offer. This includes self exposure, exposure of friends and exposure of others (who are not listed as ‘friends’ of the profile owner) through one user in various levels.   The most sensitive part of such exposure is definitely the photographs. When a user uploads a picture (whether a nature photography or a picture containing human images), to his social media profile, it is generally expected that he owns the photograph; very technically, he has copyright over it; but not always! There are numerous instances of ‘possessing’ over other’s photograph and using as well as misusing it through one’s social media profile. I myself got to see many such cases which unfortunately involved creation of “Fake Avatars”  (See Halder Debarati,Examining the Scope of IndecentRepresentation of Women (Prevention) Act, 1986 in the Light ofCyberVictimization of Women in India (May25, 2013). National Law School Journal,Vol. 11, 2013, pp. 188-218 . Availableat SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2270061) of women with ‘possessed’ pictures. But there are instances when photos of profile owners have been ‘stolen’ and showcased in other’s profiles and such photo possessing does not actually intend to harm the reputation of the actual photo owner. This happens especially when the photograph is exhibited in open access platforms like the ‘cover photo’ of Facebook, or photo albums made intentionally open for public in either Facebook or Twitter.
 It needs to be understood that social media impliedly enters into a contract where it becomes duty bound to respect a user’s copy right. This is evident from not only the Terms that any social media asks a user to go through, but also from  the report option where you would get to see a small note at the bottom “is this your intellectual property”?  In India such sorts of mischievous activities are mostly regulated by the Copy Right Act, 1957 (which has been further amended in 2012). But usage of this law for social media photo right infringement is extremely rare. The reason could be that this Act is mostly used when the intellectual property infringement involves loss of profit.  However, I have seen many people get confused as to whether they can really claim their intellectual property right when the picture is showcased in open access platforms of social media and it had been ‘stolen’. I ask ‘why not’?  But I am very much aware that to prove a claim, a victim may have to run out of her patience especially when the social media itself may ask for the proof to show that the photograph was originally owned by the victim. But still then, it may prove worth fighting for and sharing the experience  as this will actually benefit not only the intellectual property researchers, but netizens in general.

Do let me know your views.
Please Note: Do not violate copyright of this blog. If you would like to use informations provided in this blog for your own assignment/writeup/project/blog/article, please cite it as “Halder D. (2013), “Whose photo is it When you have a “cover photo” ?
, 25thOctober,2013, published in http://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com/

Too much exposed too less to expect


When an individual gets a virtual  home through his/her profile in the social networking sites it is most expected that he/she will open the windows to showcase his/her own self. While this can be an extremely positive gesture to let people know about oneself and market oneself to be one of the potentials, this can be extremely dangerous as well. As the US report on the internet and computing trend suggests, Indians are the second largest sharers of personal information after Saudi Arabians( See http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/tech/social-media/Indians-second-most-likely-to-share-everything-online-Study/articleshow/20376051.cms), I partly justify it with my own observations in the internet. Many women in India tend to reveal personal information in online pockets including social networking sites, groups, news forums etc. I was one such exposure when I first entered this big (bad) World Wide Web. The typical ways may include revealing residential address, phone numbers, school names, pet names to even secret bashes. Not to mention, the regular updates themselves may make private life revealed for many women. I had this chat friend couple of year’s back, who insisted to know what I eat in the breakfast, what I wear for formal gatherings and why do I wear them. Slowly, I understood that I was feeding this particular individual more than what is needed. Well, I had sensed danger. But not many can really sense it. At the best, many women protect their information by making their profiles open for ‘friends’. But what these women may not understand is, these ‘friends’ are neither ‘anti-chambers’ from where information can not be leaked.
        Similarly, this sharing tendency can prove beneficial for online phishing teams who can easily track out the potential victim. It needs to be remembered that women are equally becoming victims of phishing as men and may be this may be one of the reasons. Off course, how can one forget about other typical online crimes which happen mostly to women like stalking, creation of defamatory profiles etc ? All of these may be results of too much sharing.
        But then what can be the solution? While opening the windows, you can not close your doors and expect the ‘unwanted’ to show up any-time. Only thing is, you need to be prepared to face the unwanted and learn from your mistakes. I have some wonderful friends who had learnt from their past experiences due to too much sharing; some have stopped frequent updating, some preferred to maintain offline connections than carrying on virtual connections. What I have learnt from them is, the more you expose yourself, the less you should expect from privacy shields; for nothing can protect your privacy when you yourself have opened doors to let the world know what they should not have known about you.
Please Note: Do not violate copyright of this blog. If you would like to use informations provided in this blog for your own assignment/writeup/project/blog/article, please cite it as “Halder D. (2013), “Too much exposed too less to expect
, 5thJune,2013, published in http://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com/