Individual privacy cannot be held hostage to measures around cyber security: RS Prasad

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Individual privacy cannot be held hostage to measures around cyber security: RS PrasadNEW DELHI: The government is stepping up efforts around cyber security to check the rising menace of financial frauds and terror threats, but has promised that there will be no witch-hunting to ensure that privacy of citizens is maintained despite heightened measures.

Ravi Shankar Prasad, Minister for Law and IT, said that cyber security is one of the priority areas for the Modi government at a time when India is on an overdrive in promoting cashless transactions and has been rolling out numerous citizen-empowerment services digitally.

However, there would be no compromise when it comes to the privacy of individuals through snooping and other such measures. “Individual privacy is a must, and should remain important,” Prasad told TOI, while also adding that “privacy cannot become a shield for the corrupt or terrorists.”

The minister said that in between efforts to strengthen cyber laws, due regard needs to be given to an individual’s right to privacy. “Any surveillance of money launderers or terrorists is done, and should be done, after proper homework, feedback of security agencies and intelligence agencies, and when there is a tangible evidence of wrong-doing.”

The government’s focus on cyber-security comes at a time when India is playing host to the Global Conference on Cyber-Space that would be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi later this week.

Cyber and IT Ministers from over a dozen countries will be participating at the conference while top industrialists such as Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani, Bharti Enterprises chief Sunil Mittal and Alibaba founder Jack Ma would be speakers (the last one through video-conferencing).

Prasad said that the government wants to engage in “cyber diplomacy” as there is a need to strengthen the online security apparatus with a global perspective. “Cyber diplomacy is the new area of strategic interest and cooperation. Cyber security is seen as a common threat by countries across the world.”

He said that internet is integral to existence across the world. “Cyber bullies, extremists and terrorists are creating havoc within the system. Let a good international consensus emerge on greater cooperation between countries. We need greater sharing of best practices. Above all, making safety and security of cyber space should be integral to diplomatic cooperation.”

The focus for cyber cooperation will be on countries such as the US, France, UK, Germany, Russia, Sweden and Finland. “Cyber security has come to occupy a centrestage in the international diplomatic discourse.”