The Moving Curve: Episode 21

Hello and welcome to The Moving Curve. I’m Rukmini, a data journalist in Chennai. Every night on this mini-cast, I consider one question around the novel coronavirus epidemic in India. Tonight, as India’s lockdown enters an 18-day extension, I’m asking this question: how do we make sure that this doesn’t become a moment of erosion of our civil rights?

Chinmayi Arun, a leading Indian voice on surveillance, tech and privacy, and now Resident Fellow at the Information Society Project at Yale:

Yesterday I mentioned a comprehensive report on the surveillance tech India is considering authored by the Internet Freedom Foundation:

Apar Gupta, the executive director of the Foundation:

MIT’s Private Kit:

And this is where I wanted to centre the conversation around tech and surveillance in the context of COVID within a conversation about the state of Indian democracy itself. I think what’s impeding this debate about personal information, privacy and civil rights right now is NOT actually concerns about public health, even though that’s what it might be made to seem like. What’s impeding it I think is that not enough people think that the ostracisation and even harm of people who are sick or marginalised is a problem. Tech is helping instrumentalise these centralising and authoritarian impulses. But it didn’t create them. There will always be better, more people and privacy-friendly tech solutions out there. But getting enough Indians to want to be friendly to the sick, to minorities? There’s fewer solutions right now for that.

Thank you for listening. This episode was produced by Anand Krishnamoorthi. Tomorrow — a new question.

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I am a data journalist based in Chennai, India.

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