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March 3rd, 2018 | 6:00 PM | BARN HALL


In an age of pervasive technology and government surveillance, it has become difficult to draw clear boundaries between our public and private lives. With everyone from corporations to government security agencies collecting voluminous data about citizens, it is imperative we start addressing vital questions about the legality, objectives, and consequences of giving away our privacy so generously.

We envision Crossfire 2018 to balance the perceived benefits of giving up individual privacy against the drawbacks, from both a human socio-political perspective, as well as the technical nitty-gritty of policy and implementation.

The recent Supreme Court judgment on the Right to Privacy declaring it as a fundamental right subject to reasonable restrictions has had far-reaching consequences. The Supreme Court laid down that, the right to privacy is implicit in the right to life and liberty guaranteed to a citizen under Art.21 of the Constitution, a citizen has a right to safeguard the privacy of his own, his family, marriage, procreation, motherhood, childbearing and education among other matters.

With the advent of big data, the repercussions of the digital footprint that we leave behind are massive. Apart from social media platforms which we are active in, several corporates have access to our data for determining customer preferences to frame marketing techniques. Also, some companies have backdoors in place that provide the government and some bigger corporates with the means to track our every move. Is it right to give giants like Google and Facebook the opportunity to deprive us of our privacy in the hopes of having a better experience online?

The government has implemented mass surveillance schemes such as NETRA, NATGRID, LIM to reinforce security measures. But these institutions have unrestricted access to all our data, creating a comprehensive profile of a person's spending habits, their communications, their friends and acquaintances, the property they own, and a trove of other information. The Aadhaar project collects biometric and identity information used to improve regulatory enforcement and facilitate informed policymaking. An example is the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana, a Guinness world record holder scheme, which offers RuPay card, free zero balance savings account, life and accident insurance and many other benefits to anyone with an Aadhaar card. But Aadhaar has raised plenty of eyebrows with regards to its undefined boundaries. We’ve seen massive security breaches and cyber attacks on both the government and businesses, with the perpetrators being both private and state-backed actors. Are the benefits promised by the government worth the risk, and is this database secure enough?


Where do we draw the line between safeguarding our identity and conceding our privacy for the greater good?




Mr Suhrith Parthasarathy is an independent practitioner of law, living and writing in Chennai. He graduated in law from the National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata, and has an MS in journalism from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. Mr Parthasarathy currently practices as an advocate at the Madras High Court. He is also the founder of Focus Law, an independent law office, which focuses on dispute resolution, including general litigation, tax litigation, and arbitration. Aside from being an advocate, he was also a distinguished multimedia journalist based in New York City. His work has appeared in The Classical, The New York Times, Critical Twenties, The Uptown Chronicle, The Hindu, and The Times of India.



Ms Manasa Venkataraman is a renowned research associate at the Takshashila Institution and her primary focus is on issues relating to constitutional law and international law. Ms Venkataraman graduated from the Government Law College, University of Mumbai with a BLS LLB in 2014, and worked as a corporate lawyer in Mumbai for over two years. She has made major contributions to many Takshashila Policy Research papers including “Takshashila Blue paper: Charting a New Framework for Data Protection in India” and “Takshashila Policy Advisory: Privacy, Security and Ownership of Data in the Telecom Sector” - both aim at analysing and impacting the legal aspects of policy making. She is also well known for her frequent contributions to thREAD - The Hindu Blog and to Logos, the Takshashila Community Blog and also avidly participates in the Takshashila Podcast.



Dr Reetika Khera is an economist and a social scientist, who has been vocal about a variety of social issues. An associate professor in the Humanities and Social Sciences department of the Indian Institute of technology, Delhi, she has spread her wings and achieved a remarkable set of accomplishments, including a sizable number of fellowships from universities around the world, as well as publishing  dozens of papers analysing socio-economic incidents. She has also penned columns and been profiled in the mainstream media in India—for outlets such as NDTV, Scroll.in, Wire.in, Outlook India, Financial Times, Reuters, Bloomberg Quint, Quartz, Indian Express, Economic Times, and the BBC.


Anand Krishnan is a policy maker at Data Security Council Of India (DSCI). He acts as senior analyst for the nonprofit industry focusing on data protection in India. He has participated in various summits and is a fellow of the India School on Internet Governance. He has worked as an associate consultant for Arrka, Mumbai region. An exponent experience on data analysis and data security, he did his law degree from University School Of Law and Legal Studies in 2005. He then went on to do his Masters of Science from National Law Institute University in Cyber Law and Information Security. Throughout his career he has been avidly volunteering for various programs and initiatives. Having worked under Vakul Sharma in the Supreme Court of India, he has truly been a dynamic and a professional consultant for Data Security in India.



Debabrata Nayak is a cyber and security expert who is currently working as the Project Director of the Open Source Collaboration Project and Chief Technical Architect at DigiLocker. With a flourishing career, Mr. Debabrata Nayak, Additional Director at the National e-governance division, Ministry of Electronic and Information Technology, has been a pioneer in developing secure citizen services for tech-savvy users. Mr. Nayak is an open source evangelist and a strong believer of ‘OPEN SHARE COLLABORATE’ model to maximize productivity in e-governance.
He has a rich experience spanning over two decades in which he has spearheaded many large-scale e-governance projects from their inception. In these government start-ups he has been instrumental in strategic development and planning. He is the key force behind the evolution of DigiLocker platform, a secure digital highway for document exchange. The Collaboration Platform of Digital India, which he leads now, is yet another platform that he has played a major role in. As an expert in data and Information Technology, his work has helped push our society to the digital age.



Having served for over 35 years in the Indian military, Dr Major General Sudhir G Vombatkere retired as the Additional Director General of Discipline & Vigilance at the Army headquarters in Delhi. He currently serves as an adjunct associate professor at the University of Iowa, United States where he coordinates and lectures a course on Science, Technology and Sustainable Development for undergraduate students from USA and Canada. Maj Gen Vombatkere is currently engaged in voluntary social work and is a member of the National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM) and People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL). As an activist, he has helped gain the conversation and debate around Aadhaar gain traction via a petition with the Supreme Court of India, saying it gives the government unprecedented powers for surveillance of people through technology without any safeguards for citizens on their personal information. Maj Gen Vombatkere has extensive experience in strategic and development-related issues and has published a number of articles on the same.



Mr Shyam Divan is a distinguished lawyer with many years of experience and currently holds position as a senior Supreme Court advocate. His areas of practice cover most branches of civil litigation including banking, securities law, arbitration, administrative law and environmental law. Mr Divan has played an instrumental role in shaping India’s privacy laws. Today, he is best known as one of the lawyers representing petitioners in a hearing in front of a 9-member bench of the Supreme Court on Right to Privacy as a fundamental right. Mr Divan co-authored the book Environmental Law and Policy in India (2nd Edition, 2001, Oxford) and most recently authored a chapter on Public Interest Litigation in Oxford Handbook of the Indian Constitution (2016, Oxford). Mr Divan has established himself as a lead lawyer in many critical cases, including the Vijay Mallya case and also represented Punjab in the Punjab-Haryana water dispute case. He has also taught environmental law at the graduate and postgraduate levels at the University of Mumbai.