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Google Antitrust Case: US Judge Not Convinced Company’s Conduct Will Get Sanction

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The US federal judge hearing the government’s antitrust case against Alphabet’s Google said on Friday he was not convinced that he had the authority to sanction the company for overzealous use of attorney-client privilege if it occurred before the Justice Department’s lawsuit was filed.

The department had asked Judge Amit Mehta in a court filing to sanction Google, saying the company’s “Communicate with Care” programme, which asked employees to add a lawyer to many emails, was sometimes a “game” to shield communications that did not genuinely fall under attorney-client privilege. Google responded that it did nothing wrong.

Mehta, of the US District Court for the District of Columbia, said that there were an “eye-popping” 140,000 documents originally slated as falling under attorney-client privilege but that 98,000 or those were quickly given to the government. But he also said that he was “not sure a federal court has the authority” to sanction that practice since it occurred before the government filed its lawsuit.

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John Schmidtlein, Google’s attorney in the case, said that 21,000 of the emails were still at issue.

Kenneth Dintzer, the Justice Department’s lawyer, asked that Google be sanctioned for the practice and be required to turn over the 21,000 emails. He argued that the practice cost the government valuable time in putting together its case.

The Justice Department filed the lawsuit against Google in 2020, accusing it of violating antitrust law in its handling of its search business. Trial was set for September 2023.

© Thomson Reuters 2022


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Government Said to Consider Removing Vaccination Certificate Uploading Requirment on Air Suvidha Portal

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Government Said to Consider Removing Vaccination Certificate Uploading Requirment on Air Suvidha Portal

The government is actively considering doing away with a provision which requires international passengers to upload their Covid vaccine certificate or RT-PCR negative report on the Air Suvidha portal before flying to India. However, the existing mandate of filling up a self-declaration form online on the portal will continue, official sources told PTI.

Passengers have been complaining about the portal being periodically down, difficulty in accessing forms and uploading of certificates, the sources said, adding the removal of the provision may come as a relief for them.

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“The Civil Aviation Ministry recently sought inputs from the Union Health Ministry for removing the provision which requires international passengers to upload the COVID-19 vaccine certificate or the RT-PCR negative report on the Air Suvidha portal citing inconvenience faced by travellers,” a source said.

“The health ministry has given its go ahead,” the source added.

The aviation ministry has been receiving feedback from travellers about the hassles they face while uploading the certificates prior to their travel.

With international travel getting back to the pre-pandemic level, several countries have taken steps to relax requirements and restrictions for ease of travel, they said.

India logged 12,751 new coronavirus infections taking the country’s total tally of COVID-19 cases to 4,41,74,650, while the active cases have declined to 1,31,807, according to the Union health ministry data updated on Tuesday.

The death toll has climbed to 5,26,772 with 42 fatalities which includes 10 reconciled by Kerala, the data updated at 8 am stated.


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85 Per Cent Of Children In India Have Experienced Cyberbullying: Survey

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85 Per Cent Of Children In India Have Experienced Cyberbullying: Survey

A whopping 85 per cent of children in India have reported being cyberbullied as well as having cyberbullied someone, according to a report released by computer security software company McAfee. The India-centric findings are part of company’s global report titled ‘Cyberbullying in Plain Sight’, a 10-country survey. It was conducted between June 15 and July 5, covering 11,687 parents and their children. McAfee also claimed that the survey uncovered a startling fact – that many children take part in cyberbullying often without realising their behaviour for what it is, while parents struggle to keep up.

“Cyberbullying in India reaches alarming highs as more than 1 in 3 kids face cyber racism, sexual harassment, and threats of physical harm as early as at the age of 10 – making India the number 1 nation for reported cyberbullying in the world,” McAfee Chief Product Officer Gagan Singh said in the report.

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It further said that children in India witness and experience the maximum cyberbullying on almost every social media and messaging platform.

“85 per cent of Indian children reported being cyberbullied as well as having cyberbullied someone else at rates well over twice the international average,” the report said.

Further, 45 per cent of these children said they hide their cyberbullying experiences from parents, perhaps due to the relative absence of conversation.

The Methodology

In a release, McAfee explained the methodology it adopted for the survey, which was conducted in association with market research company MSI-ACI. The parents of children in the age group 10 and 18 were invited through e-mail to fill an online questionnaire.

The parents were first asked if their children were available to complete a survey. If yes, the parent was asked to complete a few questions themselves before turning over the survey to their child.

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The 10 countries where survey was conducted are: United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Australia, India, Canada, Japan, Brazil and Mexico.

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Is India at Risk of Chinese-Style Surveillance Capitalism?: Andy Mukherjee

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After five years of negotiations involving the government, tech companies, and civil society activists, the world’s largest democracy is sending its debate on privacy back to the drawing board. The Indian government has junked the personal data protection bill, and decided to replace it with “a comprehensive legal framework.” If the current anarchy wasn’t bad enough, nobody knows what the revamped regime will contain — whether it it will put individuals first, like in Europe, or promote vested commercial and party-state interests, like in China.

Back in 2017, India’s liberals were hopeful. In July that year, New Delhi set up a panel under retired Justice B.N. Srikrishna to frame data protection norms. The very next month, the country’s Supreme Court held privacy to be a part of a constitutionally guaranteed right to life and liberty. But the optimism didn’t take long to fade. The law introduced in parliament in December 2019 gave the government unfettered access to personal data in the name of sovereignty and public order — a move that will “turn India into an Orwellian State,” Srikrishna cautioned.

Those fears are coming true even without a privacy law. Razorpay, a Bengaluru-based payment gateway, was compelled by the police recently to supply data on donors to Alt News, a fact-checking portal. Although the records were obtained legally — as part of an investigation against the website’s cofounder — there was no safeguard against their misuse. The risk that authorities could target opponents of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party led to howls of protests about the stifling of dissent under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

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The backdrop to India’s privacy debate has changed. Six years ago, mobile data was expensive, and most people — especially in villages — used feature phones. That’s no longer the case. By 2026, India will have 1 billion smartphone users, and the consumer digital economy is poised for a 10-fold surge in the current decade to $800 billion (roughly Rs. 63,71,600 crore). To get a loan from the private sector or a subsidy from the state, citizens now need to part with far too much personal data than in the past: Dodgy lending apps ask for access to entire lists of phone contacts. The Modi government manages the world’s largest repository of biometric information and has used it to distribute $300 billion (roughly Rs. 23,89,440 crore) in benefits directly to voters. Rapid digitization without a strong data protection framework is leaving the public vulnerable to exploitation.

Europe’s general data protection regulation isn’t perfect. But at least it holds natural persons to be the owners of their names, email addresses, location, ethnicity, gender, religious beliefs, biometric markers, and political opinion. Instead of following that approach, India sought to give the state an upper hand against both individuals and private-sector data collectors. Large global tech firms, such as Alphabet, Meta Platforms, and Amazon, were concerned about the now-dropped bill’s insistence on storing “critical” personal data only in India for national security reasons. Not only does localization get in the way of efficient cross-border data storage and processing, but as China has shown with Didi Global, it can also be weaponised. The ride-hailing app was forced to delist in the U.S. months after it went public there against Beijing’s wishes and eventually slapped with a $1.2 billion (roughly Rs. 9,550 crore) fine for data breaches that “severely affected national security.”

Still, the scrapping of the Indian bill will bring little cheer to Big Tech if its replacement turns out to be even more draconian. Both Twitter and Meta’s WhatsApp have initiated legal proceedings against the Indian government — the former against “arbitrary” directions to block handles or take down content and the latter against demands to make encrypted messages traceable. The government’s power to impose fines of up to 4 percent of global revenue — as envisaged in the discarded data protection law — can come in handy to make tech firms fall in line; so it’s unlikely that New Delhi will dilute it in the new legislation.

For individuals, the big risk is the authoritarian tilt in India’s politics. The revamped framework may accord even less protection to citizens from a Beijing-inspired mix of surveillance state and surveillance capitalism than the abandoned law. According to the government, it was the 81 amendments sought by a joint parliamentary panel that made the current bill untenable. One such demand was to exempt any government department from privacy regulations as long as New Delhi is satisfied and state agencies follow just, fair, reasonable and proportionate procedures. That’s too much of a carte blanche. To prove overreach, for instance in the Alt News donors case, citizens would have to mount expensive legal battles. But to what end? If the law doesn’t bat for the individual, courts will offer little help.

Minority groups in India have the most at stake. S. Q. Masood, an activist in the southern city of Hyderabad, sued the state of Telangana, after the police stopped him on the street during the COVID-19 lockdown, asked him to remove his mask and took a picture. “Being Muslim and having worked with minority groups that are frequently targeted by the police, I’m concerned that my photo could be matched wrongly and that I could be harassed,” Masood told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. The zeal with which authorities are embracing technologies to profile individuals by pulling information scattered across databases shows a hankering for a Chinese-style system of command and control.

The abandoned Indian data protection legislation also wanted to allow voluntary verification of social-media users, ostensibly to check fake news. But as researchers at the Internet Freedom Foundation have pointed out, collection of identity documents by platforms like Facebook would leave users vulnerable to more sophisticated surveillance and commercial exploitation. Worse still, what starts out as voluntary may become mandatory if platforms start denying some services without identity checks, depriving whistleblowers and political dissidents of the right to anonymity. Since that wasn’t exactly a bug in the rejected law, expect it to be a feature of India’s upcoming privacy regime as well.

© 2022 Bloomberg LP

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What should you make of Realme’s three new offerings? We discuss them on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on Spotify, Gaana, JioSaavn, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.

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