New legal structure needed to counter cybercriminals: Vaishnaw

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Union Information and Technology Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw on Monday called for a “dynamic” new legal structure that balances the right to privacy and freedom of expression with demands for regulation and of control to meet the challenges of unscrupulous elements in cyberspace.

Addressing the second National Conference on Cybercrime Investigations and Digital Forensics organized by the CBI, the Minister said that over the years technology has brought a lot of productivity, efficiency and convenience, but that at the same time it has brought intrusions into people’s lives which may be benign but most of the time it is smart and aims to commit a fraudulent act.

He said this problem can be solved through legal strategy, technology, organizations, capacity building and mutual cooperation.

Speaking on the legal strategy to tackle cyber crimes, Vaishnaw said the country needs to thoroughly review the legal structure.

“I don’t think incremental changes will help. The change has to be substantial, meaningful, fundamental and structural,” he said.

He said that’s where the whole conflict lies between the two constraints – the first constraint of the right to privacy and freedom of expression and the second conflicting demand to have more regulation and control – to “prevent fraudulent activity under the guise of the right to privacy and freedom of expression.”

While one branch of society says that the right to privacy and freedom of expression are sacrosanct and that no one can be allowed in this sphere, the other section calls for regulations and control. and there has to be a balance between two demands society has to strike, he said.

He said that after Covid and during Covid the world has fundamentally changed and the way of thinking has changed that balance is now happening in the thought process of societies.

Citing cases from countries like South Korea, Australia, the United States, the European Union, he said that a lot of legal and societal interventions are happening today, which basically try to restore the balance between the right to privacy on the one hand and the need for regulation on the other.

“We in India are also trying to create that societal consensus. It’s happening. Recently, in parliament on several occasions, the opposition, who used to be vocal about the government trying to interfering in people’s lives, that was their fundamental basis accusation, ask today no, we need more regulations, we need more control, we need a legal structure in which people’s privacy as well as people’s right to live peacefully are protected, so that consensus emerges and that will propel our country, also towards a new legal structure,” he said.

He said the legal structure must be a totally new, dynamic, up-to-date legal structure that responds to the aspirations of our generations, while allowing people to express themselves, report on social media and ward off those who want to cheat hard-earned savings.

“All of these things are part of this big regulatory structure that needs to be overhauled,” he said.

The Minister also conferred the Police Meritorious Service Medal to 12 CBI officers and the Extraordinary Intelligence Medal to two CBI officers.

Earlier in the conference, CBI Director Subodh Kumar Jaiswal said that due to the advancements in the field of information technology, it is the cybercriminal who takes the first step with an innovative modus operandi and the forces usually follow cybercriminals with new tools to track them.

He called for broader international cooperation among investigative agencies of various countries to curb the activities of cybercriminals spread across the globe.

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