Technology Law News Rundown: March, 2021

Fair warning and Note: This recap is going to be a long one. For the sake of readability and convenience, we have categorized the news into – E-Governance, FinTech, Focus on Privacy, Hacking, and Cyber-Crime. Feel free to scroll down to any particular section if that suits your interest. So let’s dive into the technology law news from March, 2021!

March is over and it has been loooooong! There was so much news and so much happening. Truly fitting for being the last month of the financial year. 

Let’s start with the big guns – The Intermediary Rules of the Code of Ethics. As with all Indian legislation, the first thing after the rules came out were Court cases to have them thrown out. Because what else are laws for except being challenged in Courts so they are declared unconstitutional and thrown out? We as humans have achieved self-realization and can govern as a Stateless society – who needs pesky laws made by a pesky government we voted into power? 

Ahem – pardon the rant…getting back on topic…The government has issued clarifications on the intermediary rules after overeager district administrations issued notices to journalists (Itna jaldi to Light jaane ka reason bhi nahi batate…daal mein kuch kaala hai!). The Supreme Court has also stayed proceedings in various High Courts as it prepares to hear petitions regarding the rules. At this point, we feel sorry for High Court benches because they’re being used spammed to make the SC take more notice of a matter (you have to admire the manipulation). 

Child rights organizations are using the same rules to pressure Netflix to stop streaming Bombay Begums. It’s a little (a lot) sad that child rights need random intermediary ethic rules to be taken seriously (shakes head sadly). 

Meanwhile, Amazon has landed in hot water with the Competition Commission of India for deliberately engaging in anticompetitive trade practices. Ironically, it was Reuters which substantiated this claim in their independent investigation into the matter. Who woulda thunk it? 

Some of the other important highlights regarding intermediaries this month include Facebook’s Oversight Board reducing timelines for deciding cases and our assessment on the inconsistencies in interpretation and implementation of S69A of the IT Act.  


—–(FinTech

This month has also been really good to the FinTech sector. The introduction of New Umbrella Entities or NUE has taken wings and will change the retail payment landscape in India for good. This has also marked the introduction of contactless payment in India. 

NPCI & SBI Payments plan to launch an NFC-based payment system called the ‘RuPay SoftPoS’. Axis Bank, not to be left behind in this new rat race, has declared its ‘Wear N Pay’ devices. We’re sitting on the sidelines with a tub of popcorn watching this madness unfold, even as we instruct our interns to brush up on NFC interference techniques (we’re kidding, kidding…please don’t report us). 

After years of using UPI and figuring it out, customers will be able to access the ‘How To’ manual, so to speak. UPI Help for Digital Payments, an online customer-care equivalent for the BHIM UPI service finally goes live. Better late than never we say, even if late means a couple of years. It’s the thought that counts. 

However, if I had to use one FinTech term to describe this month, it has to be crypto-currency. While the RBI runs around like a headless chicken trying to figure out if it likes or hates crypto, the most important update has to be Tesla. Its Bitcoin investment is equivalent to emissions from 1.8 million cars. Hey Elon, how’s the R&D in environment-friendly technologies going again? Even Tony Stark wasn’t that hypocritical! 


—–(E-Governance

Our government has also been very active this month. Excruciatingly so, in some spheres.  

The crypto-craziness has elicited a response from the Ministry for Corporate Affairs. It has mandated reporting crypto-currency related transactions for companies and crypto-exchanges under the category of digital assets. Now this is progressive thinking. Kind of? Figuratively? If we ignore the timeline for the decision. 

Then there’s the decision approving 34 new green zone sites where drone activity is allowed with ATC permission. Why you ask? Because we are a rising power and every rising power has random drones flying somewhere. Haven’t you guys watched any futuristic movies? Plebs! 

MoRTH has allowed Aadhar-based authentication for registration services. It’s a good idea provided cyber-security and continuity of services can be maintained, which let’s face it, will NOT happen any-time soon. Afterall, there have been numerous reports about how the loopholes in Aadhaar Registration might threaten National Security (see what we did there?).  

The government’s response to these concerns was to declare they are considering linking electoral roles with the Aadhaar. (*Face Palm*). 

The good news is that India has reached 2.5 Mn .in domain name registrations, which means more Indians are using the internet for productive (hopefully) reasons! Yay us. Now we just need to contribute something historic instead of taking up space. 

The agriculture sector is also facing a tech facelift (just not in the right area). The Govt. is preparing for a Digital Agri Stack for farmers that will be a streamlined database of information regarding rural economy and agribusinesses. But what if farmers don’t know how to use this ‘Stack’ you may ask. Well, stop underestimating farmer intelligence you elitist bourgeois.  

Moreover, the land resources department will soon allot a 14-digit unique ID for land parcels in India to better manage land records and correlate them with revenue data. Now this is some good stuff. We approve.


——(Focus on Privacy) 

Another key word to describe March has to be Privacy. There’s been an absolute deluge of bad news where data privacy is concerned. The Niagra Falls look tame in comparison. 

First, Tik Tok settled its lawsuit regarding the violation of US Privacy laws $92 million. We don’t know if this also means the company will take measures to shore its data security but we don’t have high hopes. Let’s not forget its Chinese roots.  

Then, there was Truecaller’s Guardian App leaking live locations. Because stalked Google Maps wasn’t enough of a digital creep in our lives. Et tu Truecaller?! 

Google, on the other hand, tried to be sympathetic by remining users that they can technically turn-off location tracking and sharing. If they know how to navigate the labyrinth that is Google’s account settings.  

It also plans to phase out third party cookies and change the process for advertisements. Is this meant to reassure us? We think this is more of a GDPR get-around than any real and valuable move towards data privacy.  

Facebook and Instagram have received the dubious honor of being named the most invasive applicationsThree cheers for… (meanwhile, user privacy takes a last choking breath before quietly fading into oblivion forever).  

Meanwhile, CCI has found WhatsApp’s privacy policy to prima facie be an abuse of dominance. Wow! Facebook Inc. is really putting its foot in it, isn’t it? 

In light of this increasing commodification of you and us, we’ve put out an article discussing surveillance capitalism and the personal data protection bill. Give it a read! 

The Indian government, as ever, has also jumped into the pit to demonstrate how well it butchers our privacy.  

The Airport Authority has decided to install facial recognition systems at the Kolkata Airport to ‘facilitate easier and faster services’ (*whispers* Orwell was right.). 

The Indian government has also announced it will use GPS-based technology for toll collection. Yeah, let’s see how that works out when GPS can’t get half the inter-state routes in North India right! 

It has also suggested using alpha numeric hash value to trace the origin of messages, especially for applications using end-to-end encryption. First Zuckerburg want to see our discussions about meme of the week and now the Indian government. Are we missing something? 

And if this wasn’t enough, the Madras HC has ordered an investigation into the misuse of Aadhaar data by political parties. Because in India, we don’t believe that anything is impossible. It’s a matter of willpower and effort. 

At this point, you’ll might as well become investigators and sleuths in your own right to see who’s doing what nefarious thing. Check out our primer on Open-Source Intelligence or OSINT. 


—–(Hacking

March however, has been absolutely BRUTAL for privacy violations. If anything, this month has shown us how completely cyber-criminals have us at their mercy. 

Let’s start with the historic Mumbai Blackout, confirmed to have been sponsored by the Chinese government. Even as our soldiers face-off against the PLA on our border, what is our security if China can cause mass blackouts in our financial capital?  

China has been pretty active in the cyber-security sphere. Pretty impressive multi-tasking in thumbing its nose at the world – Hong Kong, Taiwan, India, South China Sea, U.S. And in all of this, it also sponsored a hacking group attacking (successfully) MS Exchange. Where d’you get all this energy from, China? Humaare paas toh nahi hai. 

Then there was the cyber-attack at the Oxford University’s COVID Research Lab. I mean, c’mon guys, at least leave the COVID-19 vaccine alone. How mercenary have we gotten for money? 

Within India, we have some real gems where cyber-attacks are concerned! We have to start with credible reports indicating Mobikwik suffered a data breach compromising 3.5 million but what takes the cake is the company “rubbishing” those claims. Absolutely typical of Indian elites…Galti karo aur uske baad public ko aankh dikhao!  

There was also the Zee5 database hack that leaked the data of 9 million users. Truly a new feat of incompetence. But hold your horses because…drum roll…MIDC’s servers were breached and hackers have demanded a Rs 500 cr ransomWe must interrupt this broadcast to inform you that the author’s fingers have frozen from typing out the scene of this carnage and they will be momentarily indisposed (Also, if you didn’t get that joke, we urge you to Google MIDC). 

News emerged of a phishing scam targeting Indian bank customers. Witness the world keep up with Indian jugaad. Seriously guys, how much does it take to not share your details at random site, with unknown numbers or SMSs, and to, you know…PAY ATTENTION! Then again, this is the country where we can barely handle driving in our own lanes so we might be expecting too much here. 

You’ll understand our aggravation when you read about this incident. A rookie investor lost 10 lakh rupees worth of Bitcoins to a fraudster. Should we point out that greed is a sin and this should be a cautionary tale for all little children planning to play with Bitcoins? 

Finally, the poor ECI has become a parrot with the age-old refrain that EVM-VVPAT systems are not vulnerable to any manipulations. But let’s be honest here. Can any of you imagine Indian politicians losing elections with grace? And they are technically right, it was the voting machines that enabled their loss so…shrugs. Where do you guys think Trump got his election fraud spiel from? 

In conclusion, there were 12 lakh cyber security incidents that were reported in 2020 alone (imagine how many weren’t and tremble) and we can say with complete confidence that this number is not going down in 2021. Still having hopes this year will be better that the year from hell? In fact, estimates show cyber-attacks cost the US $4 billion dollars, so we’re sure you can see why we’re a little winded just thinking about the implications of 12 lakh cyber security incidents.  

Ultimately, the solution for this problem is simple – Swadeshi! Go for local cyber security products. We’ll break the risk down for you…go local and run the risk of inferior products or go foreign and run the risk of backdoor access. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Isn’t technology such a blessing improving the quality of our lives? 


—–(Cyber Crimes

Finally, because hacking is just a small sub-set of the endless ocean that is cyber-crime; here are the highlights for your appreciation. 

Continuing from the grim picture we painted above, the Cyber Crime Reporting Portal received 3 lakh complains in the last 18 months. However, the clouds have some silver lining. Small you understand so don’t get your hopes. 

Scientists have developed a mechanism to detect DeepFakes using light reflections in eyes. Now this is some high-level sci-fi stuff right here! 

In India – possession of Crypto-Currency will be penalized according to reports. Uhh…so what about those poor companies that disclose their crypto transactions? Also, just, why? Evidently, we are not enlightened enough to understand the reasoning behind such unique government policy. 

Proof of this realization comes when we heard that a Kolkata Court handed down punishment for creating a fake Facebook profile. We’ve had a long day compiling this news report. And then we come across this story. Suffice to say we no longer possess the verbal faculty to explain exactly what level of disaster this ruling is. We’ll have to leave this one to your superior expertise. Tell us what you think in the comments. 

If you’ve stuck with us till then end, you’re deserving of both our gratitude and our admiration. We must, however, emphasize that this long month has taken a mental toll (need we point out the length of this round-up) and we feel we deserve ice-cream. So, we’ll take the entirety of April to recover from the trauma of March and see you in a month!


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Medha Gupta

Medha Gupta is an alumna of Symbiosis Law School, Pune. She is currently pursuing a Masters’s degree in International Relations from O.P. Jindal Global University. She is interested in the policy space relating to the information technology sector, focusing on information management systems and information infrastructures. She has good experience in content creation and editorial oversight.

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