Welcome to our fortnightly newsletter, where our reporters Kruttika Lokesh and Dhananjay Dhonchak put together handpicked stories from the world of tech law! You can find other issues here.
Zoom sued by shareholder for ‘overstating’ security claims
- Brian X. Chen, The Lesson We Are Learning From Zoom, The New York Times, (April 8, 2020).
- Casey Newton, What Zoom doesn’t understand about the Zoom backlash, The Verge, (April 2, 2020).
- Lily Hay Newman, The Zoom Privacy Backlash Is Only Getting Started, Wired, (April 1, 2020).
Governments around the world are increasingly using location data to manage the coronavirus
As the novel coronavirus spreads around the world, an increasing number of governments are relying on mobile carrier data to track information about their citizens. Mobile carriers in the European Union are sharing data with health authorities in Italy, Germany, and Austria to help monitor whether people are following instructions to maintain social distancing. Other countries are using location data from cellphones to track the pandemic in different ways, from Iran’s ‘AC 19’ app, to China’s tracking system that sends information to law enforcement officials, to Taiwan’s “electronic fence” that alerts authorities when a quarantined person moves too far away from their home. Perhaps the most aggressive use of cellphone location tracking is taking place in South Korea where the government has created a publicly available map from cellphone data that people can use to determine if they have come into contact with someone who has been infected with the novel coronavirus. However, accessing this data, even amid a global pandemic, entails complex legal and ethical issues surrounding government access to information that can reveal intimate details about citizens’ lives. There are widespread concerns over when these extreme surveillance measures will be discounted as they have the potential to transform states into authoritarian regimes.
- Natasha Singer and Choe Sang-Hun, As Coronavirus Surveillance Escalates, Personal Privacy Plummets, The New York Times, (March 23, 2020).
- Pallavi Pundir, Coronavirus is Pushing Mass Surveillance in India, and It’s Going to Change Everything, Vice, (April 6, 2020).
- Rahul Narayan, Privacy, in the time of coronavirus, should not be compromised, Medianama, (April 2, 2020).
WhatsApp tightens message forwarding restrictions to combat coronavirus misinformation
With heightened scrutiny regarding the spread of misinformation over messaging platforms, WhatsApp on April 6, 2020 said it would place new limits on the forwarding of messages. Starting today, messages that have been identified as “highly forwarded” — sent through a chain of five or more people — can only be forwarded to a single person. The move is designed to reduce the speed with which information moves through WhatsApp, putting truth and fiction on a more even footing. It comes after bogus conspiracy theories linking 5G mobile networks with COVID-19 appeared to inspire people to set fire to cell phone masts in the U.K. The attacks resulted in the U.K. government urging social media platforms to take action to combat the spread of such false claims. WhatsApp has appeared to step up its efforts to ensure that its users can get verified information. The World Health Organization has launched a Health Alert in partnership with WhatsApp that has the potential to reach all its users and provide the latest news on coronavirus, which sets up an individual conversation which helps users have their questions answered. Similarly, the Indian government has also created a WhatsApp chatbot to combat misinformation. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) in India has urged social media platforms to “take immediate action to disable /remove such content hosted on their platforms on [a] priority basis”.
- Casey Newton, WhatsApp puts new limits on the forwarding of viral messages, The Verge, (April 7, 2020).
- James Temperton, How the 5G coronavirus conspiracy theory tore through the internet, Wired, (April 7, 2020).
- Janosch Delcker, Zosia Wanat and Mark Scott, The coronavirus fake news pandemic sweeping WhatsApp, Politico, (March 16, 2020).
Health Ministry issues long-awaited Telemedicine Practice Guidelines
The Telemedicine Practice Guidelines of 2020 as notified by the Health Ministry are the first step towards providing for a comprehensive set of rules that make up a regulatory reference point for virtual consultations of patients. The guidelines require identity and age verification of doctors, patients and/or health workers. Consent has also found its place in the guidelines, as patients are provided with a right to stop consultations in situations where the doctor initiates a consultation upon request. Artificial Intelligence or Machine Learning may only facilitate the doctor in taking a decision, but the final prescription of medicines and consultation is not devoid of a human touch. Further, any data, records or documents related to the patient have to be handled by the doctor with due regard to data privacy laws.
- Suman Ray, Is Telemedicine a useful tool to fight COVID-19?, Down to Earth, (2 April 2020).
- Tahir Ashraf Siddiqui, Issuance of Telemedicine Practice Guidelines in India: A long due piece of regulation, Live Law, (1 April 2020).
- Aditi Tandon, Online help for OPD Patients, The Tribune, (28 March 2020).