An international coalition of 31 civil society and technology experts asked the Indian Prime Minister’s Office to withdraw the proposed changes to section 79 of the Information Technology Act 2000, which regulates online intermediaries. According to the coalition, requiring intermediaries to ensure traceability of messages would undermine the security of online platforms and create a surveillance regime. Also, the draft requires intermediaries to preserve content requested by law enforcement for 180 days or longer. This data retention violates user privacy. The draft guidelines also oblige intermediaries to proactively monitor and automatically delete unlawful content. The coalition considers this provision an excessive burden for online intermediaries and contrary to regulations of many countries. A proactive monitor can result in censorship. The proposed amendments to the act were released at the end of December 2018.
Privacy and data protection are two interrelated Internet governance issues. Data protection is a legal mechanism that ensures privacy. Privacy is usually defined as the right of any citizen to control their own personal information and to decide about it (to disclose information or not). Privacy is a fundamental human right. It is recognised in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and in many other international and regional human rights conventions. The July 2015 appointment of the first UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Privacy in the Digital Age reflects the rising importance of privacy in global digital policy, and the recognition of the need to address privacy rights issues the the global, as well as national levels.
Intermediaries play a vital role in ensuring Internet functionality. In several Internet governance areas, such as copyright infringement and spam, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are considered key online intermediaries. In other areas, such as defamation and the so-called right to be forgotten, the responsibility extends to hosts of online content and search engines.
Several international instruments guarantee the right to freedom of expression. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms that this right includes the freedom to hold opinion without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas. The Internet, with the opportunity it offers people to express themselves, is seen as an enabler of the exercise of this particular human right. Although these freedoms are guaranteed in global instruments and in national constitutions, in some countries freedom of expression is often curtailed through online censorship or filtering mechanisms, imposed by states, often for political reasons.