HomePolitics & LawFreedom of speech and expression contravene privacy rights or vice versa?

Freedom of speech and expression contravene privacy rights or vice versa?

Whenever the question comes in the perspective of privacy protection we always determine what exactly privacy is and what exactly entails under the privacy rights. It is difficult to determine what exactly the definition of privacy as there are different conceptions regarding privacy and it rights and it can be regarded as dual aspects: – it is concerned with what information or side of our lives we can keep private and also with the ways in which third parties deal with the information that they hold (whether it is safeguarded, shared, who has access and under what conditions).


Privacy is a fundamental right. In most of the countries including India there are many provisions related to privacy and data protection laws have been established but question now arises that whether it is affecting freedom of speech and  expression or how far freedom of speech and expression contravenes privacy rights. In earlier days, when internet was not discovered or we can simple say when cyber world was not prevailing it was quiet easy to safeguard the individual privacy as comparison in the era of digital world. Now in this era of digital world, there are many well developed social media networks such as facebook, twitter, LinkedIn, or many communication technologies becomes one of the challenges for data and privacy protection. It becomes easy for any person to access any information of other through these social networks which was quite harder during non digital era. Now it is not limited in the matter that what people want to know about others but what do people wants to tell about themselves. Sometimes people who have less knowledge about internet and contents of social media sites they publish many personal information without protecting those data and sometimes even people having good knowledge about password protecting and other facilities of social media , they publish some information like this which may become easier for cyber criminals to harass , stalk , etc. to such individuals.

“Netizens” i.e. “citizens of the net”.

Nowadays people like to share their emotion, feelings in social media rather expressing in original way. They become “netizens” i.e. “citizens of the net”. They are not fake people but they act differently while doing any activity online. This is the world different from the reality where introvert become extrovert because they don’t have fear of performing publicly, here they can get many chances of editing, deleting and publish to some particular  people whom they want to see their  performance, personal information etc.. It doesn’t work in the concept one time performance; here they get many chances to express themselves which they are not able to do in reality.

In one perspective there is freedom of speech and expression, anyone can express their views in cyberspace it is also one of the fundamental rights which is given in article 19 of Indian constitution; and in other perspective it is also given right to privacy and protection of privacy but how far it’s possible to give speech freely without affecting any person privacy rights? Freedom of speech offers human being to express his feelings to other and sometimes it may discover the truth of any individual, political person or anyone. Now these persons whose truth was discovered may say that their privacy rights were affected. Now it becomes hard to determine what information should be published and what not. Right to privacy is a part of fundamental right guaranteed under the Constitution, but specific laws can over ride this where larger public interest is involved. This means that no rights including the right to privacy are absolute rights. A law imposing reasonable restrictions upon it for compelling interest of State must be held to be valid. The preamble of the RTI Act sets out that the citizens shall have the right to secure access to the information under the control of the public authorities, to promote transparency of information which are vital in the functioning of the public authorities, to contain corruption, to hold Governments and their instrumentalities accountable to the governed and thereby develop the participatory governance. However, few provisions have been incorporated in the Act exempting disclosure of certain categories of information which is necessary for the welfare and protection of nation.

IT Act

Information Technology act 2008 modified version of IT Act 2000; lays down provisions in relation to privacy provisions in which section 43 A is very important as the sub-sections of this section also extend to criminal liability of sec.66 of IT Act.  Sec. 70 of IT act lays down the provision of protected system i.e.  The appropriate Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, declare any computer resource which directly or indirectly affects the facility of Critical Information Infrastructure, to be a protected system. In legal point of view, we can say that there are many provisions which are meant for the protection of privacy but how far it is applicable in practical sense?

Freedom of expression

There is a famous saying by David Brin; “When it comes to privacy and accountability, people always demand the former for themselves and the latter for everyone else.”  Nowadays, what is happening that everyone wants privacy but they are interested in knowing and interfering in others private matters.  And then in the matter of other they want to know as they think it’s their right to be aware of others sensitive information but when it comes to them they ask for privacy protection rights. But where there is rights there is also a duty which is imposed to the netizens that they are not only supposed to protect their privacy but also not to contravene others right too. Infact they are supposed to respect others privacy too. Freedom of expression and right to know information doesn’t mean that they can defame anyone and publish any illicit activity such as vulgar videos, pictures etc of others or in the name of others.

Exercising the right of freedom carries with it special responsibilities, such as respect for the rights of others, as set out in Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights. Existing laws on pornography, race hate, libel, breach of confidence, contempt of court and so on still mean that people can be held accountable for information that they have posted.

Priyanka Sinha
Contract Administrator II & Sustainability Council member of Caterpillar Finance
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