Friday, August 27, 2010

Enact privacy act to protect personal information

'Enact privacy act to protect personal information'

Staff Correspondent

Friday, August 27, 2010 Metropolitan

Speakers at a roundtable discussion yesterday called upon the government to enact a privacy act to protect privacy, personal information, correspondence and means of communication of people.

They pointed out that individual privacy is a constitutional right of every citizen and yet it is being violated at every step of everyone's life and no one can take legal actions against such violation.

The discussion titled "Privacy rights and citizen's concerns" was organised by VOICE in association with Privacy International at the Cirdap auditorium in the city.

"Article 43 of the constitution says every citizen shall have the right to privacy of his correspondence and other means of communication," said Ahmed Swapan Mahmud, executive director of VOICE, a rights-based organisation.

Now there is no means to ensure this right to the citizens, he said.

"We get phone calls from superstores, marketing firms, and other organisations who are not supposed to have our contact information," said Mahmud, "and yet they have our names, phone numbers and family information-- all without our consent."

Journalist Selim Samad said phones are tapped in the name of security, emails are scrutinised and correspondences are monitored by security agencies.

"We even had to give our fingerprints to the state for the national identity card. These are nothing but criminalising the society," he said.

"Only convicted criminals in the US are required to give their fingerprints to the state," said journalist Shahidul Shuvra. "But here in Bangladesh, every citizen is required to give their fingerprints for the national identity card. This is blatant violation of individual privacy," he said.

In return for providing the state with information, the citizens are not receiving any kind of benefits as well, the discussants said.

"For example, if someone threatens you over telephones and you post a complaint to the law enforcers, they would not be able to take any action because they would not be able track the callers," he said.

The real problem lies in the society's mindset where no one is aware of rights to individual privacy, said journalist Selim Samad.

Our children are brought up in an environment where they are not given any privacy or individual freedom. So, they do not understand the value of privacy, said the discussants.

They said information is an asset and it needs to be protected.

In a country where the state is unable to protect its information from other countries, it is difficult to ensure protection of individual privacy and personal information, the discussants added.


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