A few years ago, I had to do a “data detox” to write a story on how people could clean up their digital lives so they didn’t inadvertently scatter details of their real lives every time they swiped or clicked. This was soon after the Cambridge Analytica scandal, when the UK-based firm was accused of collecting data on Facebook users and using it to influence elections. It was kids’ stuff really, the cleanse not the scam, but it did make me realise how many conversations apps had been recording without my knowledge. It’s oddly chilling to realise there’s a record of something you said during a casual conversation years ago—and that someone or something listened in without your consent. And for many citizens, that moment is suddenly here again with allegations that Pegasus software was used to eavesdrop on them.
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It’s only when stories of surveillance break that we really think about how easily we have learnt to forget that privacy matters, and that it’s integral to the right to life. As India enters the 75th year of independence, the Lounge team spoke to people from different walks of life, asking them what it means to be public figures and citizens, what freedoms matter to them, and which ones they worry are in danger. Most of them spoke about privacy, which confers a sense of agency and security, and about surveillance, the fear of which directly impacts the freedom with which they work and live. Whether we could really be free—to work, build businesses, live as equals, think, write, eat whatever we wish, collaborate to seek justice—without privacy is essentially what these citizens are asking.
Other stories in the issue this week include a review of activist Stan Swamy’s reflections and another of Amartya Sen’s memoirs, men who took different paths but who spent a lifetime thinking about freedoms and the ideal of a more equal society that also values individual liberty.
Write to the Lounge editor firstname.lastname@example.org @shalinimb
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