The AltNews funding case and Razorpay’s data privacy worry

Source: The post is based on the article “The AltNews funding case and Razorpay’s data privacy worry” published in Livemint on 13th July 2022.

Syllabus: GS 3 – Role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges.

Relevance: The Section 91 of CrPC .

News: Recently, Twitter has taken the Indian government to court over what it views as “arbitrary” and “disproportionate” directions to take down content and block accounts. Last year, Meta Platforms Inc’s WhatsApp began legal proceedings against India’s new internet rules demanding chat traceability. All these highlight the deteriorating operational environment for ordinary digital businesses in India.

What about the AltNews and Razorpay case?

One of AltNews’ co-founders, was arrested for allegedly hurting religious sentiments. AltNews also received money “through Razorpay from Pakistan, Syria, Australia, Singapore, and the UAE, which all require further investigation. Recently, Razorpay had been compelled to supply customer data in a police investigation against AltNews under Section 91 of India’s criminal procedure code. Thus leaving customers vulnerable to harassment for their political views.

Earlier, the Alibaba group’s bank account has been frozen for not compiling Section 91 of CrPC notice.

What is Section 91 of CrPC?

Section 91(1) provides that whenever any Court or any officer in charge of a police station can issue summon or order to any person within whose possession the officer or court thinks is the document or a thing necessary for the purpose of investigation.

But if the person does not produce the document or thing, then the court can issue a warrant of search to the officer, under Section 93(1) (a).

How can India ensure the proper functioning of digital businesses?

Enacting the data protection law: This will build trust if service providers are required to provide colour codes indicating whether a particular piece of personal data obtained by them will be given to the police on demand; or if at least a court order will be required first.

Provide adequate freedom: Digital startups must have the freedom to keep their operations running, their proprietary data secure and their reputation with customers intact. Further, the government should not arrest the intermediaries if the data asked from them is disproportional to the scope of the inquiry or irrelevant to its stated purpose.

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