An increasing concern during the current global pandemic of COVID-19 are security and privacy of the personal details of COVID-19 patients[1]. There have been reports of the personal details (the names and addresses) of quarantined persons being shared by unknown persons on social media platforms. In some instances Governments have inadvertently posted such personal details online and thereafter deleted the same. Such instances of privacy violations are covered as breach of the fundamental right to privacy affirmed unequivocally by the Supreme Court in its 9-judge unanimous decision reported in Justice K. S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India & Ors. [(2017) 10 SCC 1]. For enforcing such rights however, the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 is awaiting parliamentary assent.

Cases of violation of the personal privacy of individuals, in particular of their private parts, is however made an offence under S.66E of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (as amended) (“IT Act”).

A lady was shopping at a local store and decided to try on some items of clothing that she proposed to buy. On entering the changing room she noticed a mobile phone covered with a handkerchief on a pile of clothes in the changing room. She finds out that the phone is recording the private actions of customers, who expect privacy in a changing room. Such instances are covered as offences under S.66E IT Act.

You may feel as though the situation is helpless and that there is no use going through the struggle of a complaint now that the damage is done, but remember, that reporting a cybercrime will protect you from further harm, protect any others from potential harm, and penalize the perpetrator so that they may change.

Apart from the above section, IPC offences of Voyeurism (S.354C) and S.509 IPC may be invoked. Other provisions will also become applicable depending on the facts of each case. There are ample remedies in law against such Criminal actions of breach of privacy and dignity of an individual and it is important to bring such Criminals to book. This will also deter others from committing such crimes.

If the victim is a child, further provisions under S.67B IT Act and under The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO) may also be applicable. These would depend on the facts of each case. Culprits can be traced in such instances. There is no anonymity.

Similarly, there are cases where a husband and wife may take some pictures or videos by consent. Such consent to record is NOT consent to share! Sharing of even consensually recorded content IS an OFFENCE. The same applies to any relationship. You can be held liable for the sharing even where capturing is with consent. Do not therefore share such content recorded in private and violate another’s privacy.

Victims should therefore seek legal remedies to protect their interests and rights and also to ensure that others are not victimised further by such miscreants.

File your complaint online on cybercrime.gov.in ; Offences against women and children can also be filed anonymously. You are the victim – you are not at fault. Seek justice and ensure that criminals do not harm you or others. Be A Cyber Saathi!

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