Just days after the Supreme Court’s verdict of recognising privacy as a fundamental right in India, a trial court ordered probe against online jobs portal Monster.com in a first such case, reported The Economic Times. The website was accused of allegedly selling users’ data on its portal to a third party.
Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Naresh Kumar Laka said that online companies cannot share personal information of users to a third party without their “ïnformed consent”.
“At the time of entering personal information or data, job-seekers are not aware that the said data can be sold to any third person or that it can be misused. Accordingly, the said ostensible consent of the said applicant/individual cannot be said to be a free, voluntary or informed consent…” he said, reported Economic Times.
When the 9-judge bench held privacy as a part of Article 21 of the Constitution, it observed that online companies had enhanced technology to invade the homes and privacy of individuals.
“The capacity of non-State actors to invade the home and privacy has also been enhanced…Social networks providers, search engines, e-mail service providers, messaging applications are all further examples of non-state actors that have extensive knowledge of our movements, financial transactions, conversations – both personal and professional, health, mental state, interest, travel locations, fares and shopping habits…Knowledge about a person gives a power over that person…Thus, there is an unprecedented need for regulation regarding the extent to which such information can be stored, processed and used by non-state actors. There is also a need for protection of such information from the State,” the bench said in its verdict.
The CMM referred to the apex court’s judgement while directing the police to conduct an investigation against monster.com and arrest the culprits responsible for selling data to an accused who duped thousands of unemployed people.
The trial court said that such fake job rackets are operating across the country and a firm hand is needed to check them.
“It is common knowledge that when a person applies for a job on the internet, s/he feeds personal information which includes name, address and mobile number. In my opinion, the said data being personal information cannot be transferred/shared/sold to some third person without the consent of the said person,” the court observed.
The company, in its defence, said that it had told the police that it entered into a lawful contract for selling data, basing on the clause of acceptance agreement between job seekers and the portal.
“By registering or by using this site, you explicitly accept, without limitation or qualification, the collection, use and transfer of the personal information provided by you in the manner described in this Statement. Please read this Statement carefully as it affects your rights and liabilities under law. If you do not accept the Privacy Statement stated herein or disagree with the way we collect and process personal information collected on the Web site, please do not use it,” says the website in its privacy statement.
In a statement, the portal said, “Monster.com is currently awaiting the copy of the court’s order and direction to understand the specifics of this matter. We will fully cooperate with the regulatory authorities and comply with all processes laid by them to take necessary actions against the errant party,” reported Medianama.
The Logical Indian welcomes the decision of the trial court. Our privacy is our birthright and in the era of ‘big data’, our information is the most important asset, hence, misused by online companies. The Supreme Court, while ruling on the constitutionality of privacy said, “‘Uber’ knows our whereabouts and the places we frequent. ‘Facebook’ at the least, knows who we are friends with. ‘Alibaba’ knows our shopping habits. ‘Airbnb’ knows where we are travelling to.” As we increase our reliance on the internet, we are creating deeper and deeper digital footprints, it added. At such a time, it is essential that we regulate what we post online and also closely monitor how our personal information is being used by companies. The state needs to safeguard its citizens and anyone who violates our privacy, even the government, needs to be held accountable.