[Answered] What is Darknet? Discuss its potential dangers and urgent need for a data protection law.

Demand of the question Introduction. What is Darknet? Body. Discuss potential dangers of Darknet. Mention the need for a data protection law. Conclusion. Way forward.

Darknet is a computer network with restricted access that is being used chiefly for illegal activities on the web like selling drugs, personal information etc. One of the most famous examples of a dark network was the Silk Road marketplace which was a website used for the buying and selling of a variety of illegal items, including drugs and weapons. A comprehensive Data Protection Act is the need of the hour due to potential dangers. The Centre constituted the BN Srikrishna Committee to identify ‘key data protection issues’ which suggested a draft data protection Bill.

Potential dangers of Darknet:

  1. Identity misuse: There are reports of log-in details of streaming sites like Netflix being sold on the dark web marketplaces for cheap rates. This data is misused for creating fake identities, financial frauds etc. Leaked information has the potential to be mined for deeper data analysis and for creating profiles that could be used for social engineering, phishing and online identity theft, among other practices that thrive on the availability of such data on the Darknet.
  2. Malware and Ransomware: Another danger of the dark net is malware and ransomware. Most malware is transmitted over the dark net and then used on public access websites, so being on the darknet can put in danger of coming into contact with malware or ransomware that can cripple a business or steal one’s identity.
  3. Drug smuggling: The relative impermeability of dark net has made it a major haven for drug dealers who can sell or buy any kind of narcotic substances on the darknet without getting caught. In February 2016, in a study titled ‘Cryptopolitik and the Darknet’, researchers analysed content over the TOR network. Of the 2,723 websites they could classify by content, 57 % hosted illicit material ranging from drugs and hacking among others.
  4. Terrorism: Terrorists use dark net to provide information to fellow terrorists, to recruit and radicalize, to spread propaganda, raise funds, and to coordinate actions and attacks. Terrorists also use the darknet for illegal purchase of explosives and weapons, using virtual currencies like Bitcoin and other crypto-currencies.
  5. Child pornography: The Darknet has been used for trafficking and child pornography and other crimes. An international investigation to uncover users of a dark web child pornography website has led to 337 arrests in US.

Need of a data protection law:

  1. Data theft protection: Unlike the data protection regulations in place in the European Union and in the U.S., India still lacks a comprehensive legal framework to protect data privacy.Considering the manner in which public data are being stored and used by both the state and private entities, data of individuals is at high risk for being misused in Darknet. For efficient management of data in the age of digitisation, a data protection law is needed.
  2. Right to privacy: The Supreme Court (SC) in Justice K.S Puttaswamy vs Union of India case, declared that the right to privacy is an inherent part of the fundamental right under Article 21 of the constitution. Thus, it is the duty of the state to safeguard individual’s privacy through legislation.
  3. Rising cyber-crime: Public data leaks have been quite common in India from government websites enabling the download of Aadhaar numbers to electoral data rolls being downloaded in bulk, among others. Due to increased digitisation and increased digital complexities, data protection is needed for the hour. Recent rise of crimes like WhatsApp, Pegasus scam demands a data protection law in place.
  4. Regulating companies: Large amounts of personal data have been collected by state agencies and private companies and their flow across national boundaries has been a cause for concern. There are many instances that the state and private agencies who are using the personal data are not transparent on the purpose for which the data is being utilised. To curtail the perils of unregulated and arbitrary use of personal data a legislation must be in place.
  5. Digital India: With a billion population, India has the second highest internet user base in the world. India has 450 million internet users and expected to increase up to 730 million by 2020. With emphasis on digital India, the government must ensure the safety of citizen’s data.

Data protection is a must in the age of digital era. The law should encompass all the aspects- data collection, processing and sharing practices in an integrated manner. The Kerala Police has set up a ‘state-of-the-art lab’ to intervene and crack down on the rising criminal activities over the Darknet, also known as the underworld of the Internet. The state must prevent and investigate digital crimes, prevent misuse of data and encourage data security through legislation.

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