Cyber Attacks: Right to Privacy with respect to Social Media


This article has been written by Ritu Janjani, a student, Dharmashastra National Law University, Jabalpur

Before discussing the requirement of cyber laws in order to secure the privacy of the internet users, it becomes important to analyse the ambit of recognition of Privacy as a legal right in India.

Majority of the population in India resides in the rural regions and is hardly aware the risks involved in the trust that people potray while purchasing articles online or surrendering their personal information to be accessed by anybody in the world without realizing, the data once secured by the websites is analysed, shared and sold to other companies, who further keep a track on the activities of the interested buyers. The service providers have all the access to your confidential information on the internet.[1]

However in the year 2000, legislature made effort to embrace social media privacy issues and currently India’s most comprehensive legal provisions that incorporates the privacy of the indivisuals on the social media is the Information Technology Act, 2000. Eventhough it cannot completely safeguard the privacy, it can dilute it to an extent. Provisions that clearly protect user privacy include Section 43, 66, 66F and 67 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 and also the rules of the Act.[2]

One of the multiple ways of infringement of privacy on the social media is Data scrapping. It involves tracking people’s activities online and harvesting personal data and conversations from social media, job websites and online forums. It mostly happens that the research companies collect the personal data of the individuals via. The above mentioned forum and then further sell it to the other companies. Therefore, it happens so, once you like a particular product on facebook or instagram you start to see the similar advertisements everywhere. These, in turn, use these details to design targeted ad campaigns for their products. While one might argue that people are knowingly sharing personal details on social media and thus, it’s free for everyone’s use, data harvesters don’t ask for the owner’s consent. And this raises an ethics as well as an online privacy problem.[3]

The Like”, “Tweet”, “+1”, and other options available to share content with our friends. But these widgets are valuable tracking tools for social media websites. They work with cookies, small files stored on a computer that enable tracking the user across different sites – that social websites place in browsers when you create an account or log in, and together they allow the social websites to recognize you on any site that uses these widgets. Thus, your interests and online shopping behaviour can be easily tracked, and your internet privacy be invaded.

Things get worse when cookies and beacons – pieces of software that can track you and gather information about what you are doing on a page. Such tracking tools are mostly used online but are mostly targeted towards children as they are most prone sections to the advertisement companies. One of the recent examples of the above was the installation pop ups of the Blue whale game which led to immense suicides, most of the were below the age of 18 years. However, the game was banned seeing adverse consequences of the infringement of privacy of it’s users.[4]

There are certain cases with respect to infringement of social media privacy discussed further. In one, Arizona Woman’s case, an Arizona woman was jail a tax rebate scam which was targeted towards theft of the data of the unemployed people who were targeted through the most prominently used social networking site i.e. Facebook. Using the information, they would pose themselves as government authorized agencies, willing to help them out. The scammers then push for more personal information from the targets, details they can then use to make a tax claim on their behalf, netting all profits in the process. This way the scammers were able to get the most confidential information out of the people, using the same to file false tax claims.[5]

In another case where a renowned Formula One driver Jenson Button had had his house robbed in St Tropez. Button and his wife, Jessica Michibata, were staying in a rented holiday villa, which thieves broke into and cleaned out, taking, amongst other things, Michibata’s $388k wedding ring. A different view was given to the case when there were speculations of the thieves tracking the location as Michibata was broadcasting it via her Instagram account, with all her images tagged to locations via the photomap feature. The photo posts of your home decorations might inform your tracers of the valuables in your house. The right to privacy. a subset of Article 21 i.e. Right to life and personal liberty and has to go parallel with the right to Freedom of speech and expression as guaranteed by Article 19(a) of the Constitution of India. The freedom of expression by the means of memes etc. shall in no case hurt the sentiments of the individuals.

Also Read:  Anti Defection Law - Issues, Examples and Supreme Court's View

Many a times, celebrities have reported of defamation, blackmail and circulation of unintended information through the fake Ids. In personal Bangkok’s military court under a rule known as lèse-majesté (injured majesty), under which anyone convicted of insulting the king, queen, heir or regent faces up to 15 years in prison on each count. The man admitted to defaming the monarchy in six separate Facebook posts – the original sentence of 60 years was reduced to 30 on admission of guilt.[6]

In another case of Nielsen Co., a media-research company, was caught scraping every message off PatientsLikeMe‘s online forums, where people talk about their emotional problems – in what they think is a safe, private environment. The above act was a huge infringement of the person’s trust of sharing the private information.

It has been reported several times that certain Facebook apps are leaking identifying information about those who are using them, to advertising and Internet tracking companies and without the user’s consent. During the apps’s installation process, the user is prompted to give his/ her consent to certain terms, and it happens with the 75% of the users, never read the privacy policy on any website that they interact with and about the same percentage of participants had never read the privacy policy of a website before sharing his/her personal information,” says the study conducted by Prof Ponnurangam Kumaraguru (PK) and Niharika Sachdeva for PreCog@IIITDelhi which claimed to cover 1000 people in the survey.

Such happens as the user has to enter into a standard form of a contract, where he cannot alter the terms and conditions of the service provider and has to agree to it in order to proceed.[7]

It was for the first time in the case of Kharak Singh vs. State of Uttar Pradesh, in the year 1963 the court for the first time discussed that whether the Right of Privacy can be construed from the Articles 19(1)(e) and 19(1)(d) where the majority was of the opinion that Article 21 prevents the encroachment over the personal life of an individual.[8]

The expression was further discussed in the cases of Govinda vs. State of Madhya Pradesh , R Rajagopal vs. State of Tamil Nadu where the right to Privacy was given a broader view and extended to the right of Reproductive autonomy i.e. right to use condoms and the right to abort.

Further in the case of State of Maharashtra vs. Madhukar Narayan Mardikar, the supreme court laid down certain prepositions with respect to Privacy of an individual one of which was a balanced approach towards the Right of freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by the article 19 of the Constitution of India and the Right to Privacy as deduced by the Article 21.

Finally, the recent case of Puttaswamy vs. UOI, the Supreme court has recognized Privacy as the constitutionally guaranteed right.[9]

Lastly, through this article it can be construed that although Right to Privacy has attained it’s position as a fundamental right guaranteed by the constitution, it would have it’s meaningful effect only when people begin to recognize it’s importance. As discussed in the beginning of this Article, any such law has it’s impact when people recognize it’s ambit.

However, considering the Supreme court’s ruling in the case of Navtej Singh Johar vs. UOI said that it would uphold the constitutional recognition of the Rights rather than the majoritarian recognition.[10] Therefore, it becomes important for the state to secure the privacy of it’s citizens over the social media and such can be ensured via. appropriate cyber law legislations in this direction.


[1] What Is Privacy? Authored by a Symantec employee available at ttps:// last accessed on 16th May 2020

[2] Information Technology Act 2000

[3] Privacy violations – the dark side of social media… – BullGuard available at media last accessed on 17th May 2020

[4] Ibid id

[5] Social Media, Privacy and Scams – 3 Recent Cases That Highlight the Need to Take Care By Andrew Hutchinson available at last accessed on 17th May 2020

[6] Supra Note 5

[7] ‘Privacy in India: Attitudes and Awareness V 2.0’.Updated: Dec 09, 2012, 12.26 PM IST Available at// from=mdr&utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst: last accessed on 18th May 2020

[8] MP Jain, The Indian Constitutional Law 8th Edition 4th Feb 2018.

[9] Ibid id

[10] Will uphold constitutional morality while deciding on Sec 377, says SC By Aditi Singh available at last accessed on 17th May 2020.


Leave A Reply

Subscribe For Latest Updates

Signup for our newsletter and get notified when we publish new articles for free!