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Happy 2019, friends! Hope everyone is off to a great start after the holidays (not easy, I know)!

If 2018 was the biggest year for privacy, 2019 promises to be even bigger, possibly setting the stage for the next decade’s regulatory ecosystem, international arrangements, effective enforcement, professional skills and employment, and getting privacy as part of the design of systems and processes.

There wasn’t really a holiday spree in India with the ongoing winter session of Parliament, so that ensured momentum carried forward on the cyber and data protection front, too. A controversy emerged following the central government notification listing 10 agencies that are legally allowed to obtain permissions on interception and monitoring of internet traffic and computer resources for specific cases that warrant surveillance. Opposition parties harped on the opportunity to launch attacks on government as “Snoopster.” Civil society actors called the move unconstitutional as surveillance orders currently lack independent (judicial/quasi-judicial) oversight and are pressing for reforms following the Supreme Court’s historic right to privacy (Puttaswamy) and Aadhaar judgments in previous years. The government used social media to counter some of the misinformation floating on the subject and provided clarification on the need for legitimising agencies. Amid all this, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology moved an amendment to the Aadhaar bill, which also intends to bring back use of Aadhaar for services beyond what the Supreme Court limited on privacy grounds.

This year will also be one of misinformation, “fake news” and propaganda with rising domestic polarization in major continents and increasing international influence as geopolitics takes new form. We’ve seen glimpses of how information spreads, is consumed and drives us on a daily basis. In the next 24 hours, there’s something different to chew on. The government has brought out a revised draft of intermediary guidelines specifically for making social media platforms accountable under the law. Last date to submit inputs is 15 Jan.

The Vietnamese Cyber Security Law also entered in effect starting 1 Jan. that not only forces companies to hand over data to the government when asked for, but also “weeds out hostile and reactionary forces.” It will be interesting to see enforcement of the law amid growing international pressure against protectionist measures.

Researchers on Twitter reported that the Microsoft Outlook app has 11 embedded trackers that has corporate users worried about safe usage of their emails. Official response from Microsoft is not yet available.

I’ll leave you with these for today. Have a great day (whenever you read this)!

With best wishes,
Rahul Sharma

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