In some supremely air-conditioned room, cops will sit on their computers, logging into Orkut. They will then meticulously wade through all the offers of “fraandship”, “oye, sexy pic you got” and what not to track down the very bored people who form hate groups. Not just if you hate India. If you hate Ambedkar, Shivaji, Gandhi – and are part of some such hapless Orkut group – Google is apparently going to provide them information on your IP. Since it never really is clear what can be hated under the Constitution, it’s likely that if you hate peacocks, nine yard sarees, Doordarshan, Dhoni’s hairstyle, you could still be committing a serious crime.
A single e-mail between the DCP in charge of the Enforcement Branch and the California-based company will now nail such persons.
Following a meeting between representatives of the site and the Enforcement Directorate last month, the Mumbai Police and Orkut have entered into an agreement to seal such cooperation in matters of objectionable material on the web.
Trouble is, that many proxies don’t solve the problem. You cannot access gmail or orkut on many of these services. There are a few like AvoidLimit that may allow access, but the waiting time is likely to fizzle out your hatered.
There are issues that Orkut has. People get stalked. But frankly, please don’t be foolish enough to go about publishing your phone number on a public profile. You’re not asking for it, but a large number of human beings are bored and perverts. As for people creating fake profiles in other people’s names – the internet has a memory for both the fake profile, and the denial. If you ignore it long enough, people will find something else to do. I understand that cyber crimes can be very serious. But we still don’t have a concrete definition of what constitutes a cyber crime. And who exactly is to tell us what “objectionable content” is? If it’s wrong to hate Shivaji, I demand that anyone hating Kannagi be labeled a criminal too. In fact, I demand that anyone hating anything remotely Tamil be tracked down and sent a year’s supply of bad Tamil movies as punishment.
This is the first step. You may not hate anything that the government wants you to love. But tomorrow, it’ll be for some other reason. Maybe they’ll begin by saying that since sodomy is illegal, any homosexual man posting on Orkut will be tracked down. Then, they’ll tell you they’re at your doorstep because you dared to say that Pasta is better than Dal. (Actually, given our current Italian flavour in the government – that might take an election.).
Update – Google has a response. Maybe they should change their tag line to “Don’t do Evil. Just be Ambiguous.”.
What is important to note is that this new reporting tool does not affect the way we treat users’ data – it only enables a faster, direct communication. Authorities will still be required to follow an appropriate legal process in order to get user-identifying information.
What exactly is “legal process” in this case? A bad case of police indigestion?