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Can the government keep our data safe?

  • Published at 12:05 am September 25th, 2019

Citizens deserve to have their privacy protected

Living in a time described as the age of the digital environment, Bangladesh is lagging far behind Western countries in terms of developing a legal infrastructure for combating the many infringements of privacy its citizens are facing, along with other kinds of cyber-criminal activities. 

Due to this digital information environment we inhabit, the demand and supply of an individual’s data has never been a more desired commodity.

This must beg the question: What might one achieve even if given considerable access to one’s data? Well, many things, in fact, can and most likely are already being done. For example, various kinds of companies are already using the data acquired to design and promote demographic targeted marketing schemes. 

A privacy breach scandal arose recently when many alleged that Pathao, a local ride-sharing start-up, had been illegally accessing users’ messages and contact information, and utilizing that data to provide target specified ads to the users.

Additionally, it is alleged that they have been transferring this valuable data to third party organization(s) based in California. This is a significant breach of ethical practices of ride-sharing services, and an infringement of the recently promulgated Ridesharing Service Policy, 2017. 

In October 2018, the Digital Security Act was enacted. The purpose of this act was to become the primary legislative mechanism to combat the surging number of cyber-criminal activities, of which infringement of personal data is arguably the frontrunner. This Digital Security Act was “enacted to ensure National Digital Security and enact laws regarding digital crime identification, prevention, suppression, trial and other related matters.” 

This act is equipped with a variety of provisions, 62 in total, that deals with a wide array of cyber-criminal activities and their punishments, formation of the Digital Security Agency, powers to investigate, search, seizure, etc. 

Section 18, in particular, deals with illegal entrance to computers, digital devices, computer systems, and punishment. This stipulates two actions: i) illegally entering any computer, cell phone, and other digital device, ii) illegally entering or aiding in the entering of aforementioned digital devices with the intention of committing a crime. 

The punishment for breaching the former is imprisonment for a maximum of six months, a maximum fine of Tk3 lakhs, or both. Punishment for breaching the latter is imprisonment for a maximum of three years, a maximum fine of Tk10 lakhs, or both. Similarly, Section 26 of the Digital Security Act 2018, provides punishment for collecting/using identity information without permission. First time offenders will be punished with imprisonment of a maximum of five years, a maximum fine of Tk5 lakhs, or both. 

Unfortunately, this act does not do a stellar job at emphasizing the scope and precision of such terminology, but is a good step towards the development of a solid legal infrastructure to combat cyber-criminal activities at a quick, steady rate.

Despite some progress, Bangladesh is still trailing behind quite a bit in terms of success in trying and convicting perpetrators. It seems imperative for the government to develop more specified legislations as counter measures to this new dimension of crime, and guarantee the safety and security of the data of the citizens of this great nation. 

Additionally, consistent amendments to the enacted acts are also vital, as the nature of this new dimension of crime is progressive and elusive, and it is often near impossible to track the perpetrators. Emphasis must be put on researching these activities and producing strategies and methodologies to be adopted to make the combating effort fruitful. 

With efficiency and creativity, I am certain it will be possible to not only tackle, but mitigate this problem that is affecting the lives of more people in our country than ever before. 

Wasif Jamal Khan is a freelance contributor.