Daily Post 1421
A LAWLESS DIGITAL WORLD
It seems to be a lawless world for the creators, operators and generally the users of the digital ecosystem. If you think of aberrations and violations, the digital world is replete with it, to the extent that in public perception, it is treated to be normal. As they were creators, they were treated as twice born, starting with being out of most of the approval and the taxation regime. Added to that there were concessions of every kind. It was as if they were doing a favour to the Govt and the masses, while they were silver lining their pockets. When the mess and monopoly was becoming conspicuous and hard hitting, some half hearted attempts were made. United States v. Microsoft Corporation in 2001 is the first case against a huge IT MNC. This was under Section 2 of Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890.
That Microsoft grew from strength to strength is another story. Given the nature of the these corporations, are pre Digital Age laws of any value? Is there no need to decide afresh as to what monopolies mean in the present age. Monopolistic ambition and its realisation today does not translate into only monetary windfall, it gives the nature of control, which even the worst of the Facist nations / leaders would have never imagined of, even in the wildest of their dreams. Don’t we need a complete new law to take care of Digital Age companies, they cannot be guided only by the Companies Act. Does our present Companies Act deal with Data as an asset class? When the valuation happens on the quantum of data they hold and the pace at which it is created, it is not considered for any legal purpose or for any mandated financial control.
What is the nature of control Govt has on these IT companies having made deep inroads in every single gadget and hand in this country? Can they remain just mute spectators? An account which can become more lethal than any other weapon is opened at the whims and fancies of the IT service provider and the user. Does India have no role to play? The companies say that they are not bound by Indian laws, the court of jurisdiction remains where it is registered. So operations has been delineated from legal registration and nobody needs to pay any tax in the territory of operation. The physical cloud at least gives you some rain, this cloud remains unknown to the territory it is operating on. What is our legal control over the cloud but for a clarion call for localisation of data. How that would be put into practice no one knows.
Social Media is the nadir even in this Digital Legal Wilderness. What has changed from the time of mob lynching, is that forwards got limited to five on What’sApp, that also with humungous efforts. How these services are to be serviced in the country of operation, nobody has any clue? The iPhone story in the San Bernardino terrorist case is what legal legends are made of in the IT world. Mark Zuckerberg has been able to get off the hook in a variety of cases. Cases don’t mean criminal cases. Today also there is no criminal case against him. Under what law do you book him, audit him, nobody has an answer. From the US Presidential Elections 2016, digital lawlessness reigns supreme, unabated. Even a standard understandable format of consent, the world has not been able to create. Facebook – Cambridge Analytica saga did not lead to any legal imbroglio. BREXIT has it own story. The Big Four CEOs recently faced anti-trust congressional hearing and not the music of the court. India erupts with another social media story of bias and political wheeling dealing.
UNCONTROLLED TECH COMPANIES HAVE TAKEN THE WORLD FOR A RIDE.