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The private chats of Bollywood actors discussing light drugs are on news TV. They satisfy the voyeuristic impulses of people. Who wouldn’t like a peep into the private lives of Bollywood celebrities?

Yet, these alleged chats leaking into our living rooms have also horrified people. Is there no such thing as privacy? Are my WhatsApp chats also being accessed by every Tom, Arnab and Navika?


Also read: We don’t share GPay customer data with third parties — Google dismisses media reports


India needs a solid privacy law

If you are worried about that, there are a few steps you can take to safeguard your privacy. The first step would be to start taking the issue of privacy seriously enough — demand a privacy law in India.

A data privacy law has been pending before Parliament, but it is a poor draft. And so even if it is passed, it won’t actually do much to safeguard the privacy of citizens. It is oriented towards enabling the government to access your data without much trouble.

Remember that we have been told in the past that privacy is the concern of a few elites. Technology companies often wonder if privacy is just something a bunch of activists make a lot of noise about or whether the average consumer actually cares for it. Many say, ‘Why should I be afraid when I have done no wrong?’ Well, then, why don’t you have that nasty fight with your spouse publicly on Facebook. If you don’t care about your privacy, then someone can put up that fight you had with your spouse on Facebook by accessing your private phone chats.

When you live in a country whose government told the Supreme Court that privacy is not a fundamental right, and that people don’t even have an ‘absolute’ right over their own bodies — it is time to start taking phone privacy seriously.


Also read: Only recipient can see your texts, WhatsApp says as ‘leaked chats’ flood media in Sushant case


Take control of your privacy 

The good news is that over the years, Android and iPhone have been strengthening privacy controls. You are getting ever more control over what personal data an app can take from you.

The bad news is that you still have to understand the issues for yourself, invest time and effort in figuring out where you are vulnerable. There is no such thing as 100 per cent data privacy. But the difference between 50 per cent privacy and 99 per cent privacy lies in your effort.

Update your apps: From across the world, there are malware and spyware that keep coming up and hitting the digital ecosystem, like asteroids in the universe. By the time a patch comes up and the vulnerability is found and fixed, your data may already have been compromised. This is why it is important to keep your phone and computer operating systems, as well as all apps therein, updated all the time. Switching on automatic updates is a good idea. Updating as soon as you see a pending update is good hygiene.

Don’t allow everything: All kinds of apps will ask you for all kinds of permissions, often for no good reason. Don’t give them permission unless it makes sense. For instance, why should the NaMo app have permission to see all your private photos in your photo gallery? Disallow.

Set app-specific passwords: Many apps, including WhatsApp, Telegram and Signal, let you set app-specific passwords (or require fingerprint or face ID). Even if someone gets access to your phone physically or through hacking, this adds a layer of security.

Don’t trust iCloud or Google Drive: What’s on iCloud or Google Drive can be easily hacked into and is not protected by end-to-end encryption. Upload on the cloud only if you’re fine with strangers seeing your content. Are you ok with Navika Kumar seeing that photo of you? Fine, upload on cloud.


Also read: Suspect all, fix all? Is that the motto of our new ‘National Suspicion State’?


Understand T&Cs, then allow

The problem is that many of us just give permissions without understanding what we are permitting. WhatsApp itself will trouble you from time to time to backup your chats and you think that’s not a bad idea. This backup is stored on your iCloud or Google Drive. This is how, it seems, that private chats of Bollywood actors are coming out in public domain.

Use Signal for disappearing messages: There is a fundamental problem with chatting. People chat in the moment. They say and do things in that moment, just like oral speech. The private conversation you had with a friend in a bar, you don’t archive it somewhere. But chats are being archived and could come back to haunt you. A good privacy practice is to not archive them at all. The Signal app is considered the safest and the most trustworthy. Its ‘disappearing messages’ feature makes the message disappear in some time, after it is read by the recipient. You can choose how long the message stays, between five seconds to a week.

WhatsApp does not have this feature, and needs it desperately. Telegram has it.

Deleted messages? In the Bollywood cases, it seems that deleted messages have also been recovered. Even if you delete a message from your WhatsApp, or delete WhatsApp itself, the messages could be recovered through a forensic investigation into your phone.

With disappearing messages on Signal, perhaps this may not be as easy. But even this has been known to be not 100 per cent safe in the past. There is no such thing as 100 per cent safety, but Signal’s disappearing messages are much safer than, say, letting years of random chatting stay on your phone and/or cloud service.

Switch off media auto-download: You’ve heard of viruses getting installed on your computer from shady email attachments. You don’t download shady email attachments. Something similar happens on your phone, especially on WhatsApp. This is called ‘media auto-download’. A random stranger sends you a photo or video, it gets automatically downloaded to your photo gallery, and installs malware on your phone. To prevent this, switch off the media auto-download option. Anyone, even trusted contacts, will send you a photo or video and you will have the option of downloading it at will. You can, thus, decide what you want to download and what you don’t want to download, just like email attachments. This will also help save memory space on your phone.

Security and privacy upgrades in recent years have made it tougher to install such malware, but it doesn’t hurt to be cautious.

The author is contributing editor, ThePrint. Views are personal.

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60 Comments Share Your Views

60 COMMENTS

  1. Mobile is kinda personal stuff so why not try to encrypt mobile traffic? A good way of doing that is to get yourself the best android VPN and keep all your traffic encrypted and secure. One of the most affordable mobile VPN is the FastestVPN that comes with a 15 day money back guarantee.

    • There’s a HUGE difference between anti-india and against the ruling government, you can’t just put both of them together and mislead like that. The fact that he wrote about the need for a privacy law in india is enough to prove that he’s not anti-india. He may be against the government I don’t deny that. You’re the one who has a messy mind.(or maybe you’re doing it on purpose, who knows)

      • Well, your difference seems agenda based difference rather logical.
        The thin line difference you are hiding behind is making ur statement messy that symbolic to ur state of mind. Why would anyone in sound mind be against ruling govt. Ruling govt. Won that is why they are ruling unless u have some hidden motives.
        Cutting it shot even USA’s NIA has right to intercept any conversation with suspicious keywords and strict action is taken against that. This is a safeguard to saves lives and nation.
        Nevertheless nobody is leaking their romantic and family chats or conversations.
        This mindset of urs blinds you to see what is good for nation or you be u want that, who knows?

      • Well, your difference seems agenda based difference rather logical.
        The thin line difference you are hiding behind is making ur statement messy that symbolic to ur state of mind. Why would anyone in sound mind be against ruling govt. Ruling govt. Won that is why they are ruling unless u have some hidden motives.
        Cutting it shot even USA’s NIA has right to intercept any conversation with suspicious keywords and strict action is taken against that. This is a safeguard to saves lives and nation.
        Nevertheless nobody is leaking their romantic and family chats or conversations.
        This mindset of urs blinds you to see what is good for nation or you be u want that, who knows?

  2. Hmm…first not a fan of Navika, Arnab or for that any news channel in India, because all of them are either directly or indirectly promoted by politicians and their propaganda teams.
    Your concern for safeguarding privacy, a need for a strict privacy law is really appreciated and the need of the hour.
    What is undigestable is your apparent apathy towards other extremely relevant and more serious issues like the economy, the farmers bill, the pandemic.
    If you’d just ignore TRP hungry overrated, overglorified channels and bring forth the serious issues facing us it would be nice.
    If you don’t like navika or Arnab take it up with them personally don’t push it down our throats because then you too are going as low as them.
    We are not all bothered by them and view them as mutts hungry for morsels of news, you on the other hand claim to be of a higher standard so live up to it.
    We’ve had enough of media houses and channels and news papers trying to form our opinions for us, here’s a heads up, your job is to report and we will decide and form our own opinions.
    Capisce???

  3. Hmm…first not a fan of Navika, Arnab or for that any news channel in India, because all of them are either directly or indirectly promoted by politicians and their propaganda teams.
    Your concern for safeguarding privacy, a need for a strict privacy law is really appreciated and the need of the hour.
    What is undigestable is your apparent apathy towards other extremely relevant and more serious issues like the economy, the farmers bill, the pandemic.
    If you’d just ignore TRP hungry overrated, overglorified channels and bring forth the serious issues facing us it would be nice.
    If you don’t like navika or Arnab take it up with them personally don’t push it down our throats because then you too are going as low as them.
    We are not all bothered by them and view them as mutts hungry for morsels of news, you on the other hand claim to be of a higher standard so live up to it.
    We’ve had enough of media houses and channels and news papers trying to form our opinions for us, here’s a heads up, your job is to report and we will decide and form our own opinions.
    Capisce???

  4. Lol people don’t care about their privacy in Comment section. “If I didn’t now anything wrong then why I have to hide something” really?? If your chats with your gf got leaked you will be happy? Or you don’t know this article is written sarcastically.

  5. Champions of privacy are actually becoming social parasite. They treat privacy of elite and criminals more important and fundamental than maintenance of law and order. Criminals and drug pedlars can freely trade and create mayhem in the country. Tomorrow they will advocate that dens of prostitutes should not be raised. Any thing done in the four corner of wall is a private affair. Respected paper run by eminent Sekhar Gupta has allowed such articles to be published is also not appreciable

  6. does this author think NDTV or National Herald will not read/publish if have whatsapp chat of some BJP leaders? Agree that privacy is very very important but just bringing Navika shows that he is only worried about this just because Navika is considered pro-BJP.

  7. Everybody here saying “why worry if you have done nothing wrong… Let our messages be accessed”. This will slowly turn our country into China, where the government can know if a person did not go to work one day. The government can know if one misbehaves with anyone. The government can know if one criticized the government in a whatsapp chat. The government becomes a puppetteer, controlling every aspect of everyone. This might not happen immediately, but it will eventually happen if we go down this route. Does this sound good? Is this what you want? Yes, I have nothing to hide and have done no wrong. The government and its agencies must be able to catch the criminals without compromising the privacy of its citizens, only those associated with the criminals.

  8. Totally waste article!! What Navika kumar did is right and i support her..Illegal things should not be protected in the name of privacy, it should be EXPOSED!

  9. Crap article from a crap media house. Stooges of Bollywood and 10 Janpath are trying their best to save their masters by giving us a lecture on privacy. Well tell us: is doing drugs legal? If no, should they be forgiven because they are rich and famous or pay you to write crap? Are they above the law?

  10. India needs to have law regarding ‘leaking’ of private chats in media. I support responsible agencies having access to such chats, I don’t support these ‘leaks’. Laws should be made where people showing these chats and officials who leak them are punished stringently.

  11. This article is just written for the saks of writing something. Wttf, technical details are given. Really laughing so hard and feeling pitty for the writers to have nothing to write about.

  12. Expected cheap article by The Print. Apologist post for the druggies . Good to know that The Print is on the side of the druggies . What a shame !!

  13. What one does to their body is their own choice. Enforcing laws against it is only gonna make things worse. Cops will just demand light bribe if one is caught using these light drugs. This nation has yet to learn to prioritize real issues above these drug consumers.

  14. You should rebrand yourself as

    “The Sh*t”
    And yes domain is also available for you -www.thesh*t.in ”

    Thats whats this post reveals about the sh*t in your minds

  15. Total Bullshit. First you do crime of using and peddling drugs by using whatsapp platform and then say that do not show it on television because I have my privacy. Totally unacceptable. Data privacy has a limit. You can not commit crime and then demand that do not expose it because I have my privacy. Your any privacy should end once you do a criminal act. It is because of propagating of this baseless thought by media like you, that India is in such a sorry state now, where all high and mighty criminals go scot free e.g. Salman Khan, Sanjay dutt, all criminal politicians.

  16. I d dont think that you will allow this comment moderator. That being said for my mental satisfaction i am writing this. Light drugs privacy hooo atlast somebody did hit them in spot. What is this light drug is that a new form of drugs ecstacy from exposure to light. Dont patronize illegal businesses if you do so then you will lose face to condem other illegal activities. or you should publish a list of illegal activities that are politically correct and others which needs to be condemned after all we are a developing society. In my understanding of you list now terrorism drugs(sorry light drugs) are green lit while privacy(although rafel jet documents were revealed) anything related to holy cows (b world celbes ,political celebs) are absolutely condemnable

    • Bro, light drugs is what those drugs are called. And, if you really think what’s going on is some real crusade against Drugs not a mere drama than maybe you should explain why only consumers are being arrested not the bigshot suppliers and politicians who patronize the nexus?

      P.S. : BJP itself recently inducted a minister in its Goa govt who has previously been accused of being a drug lord….with case still pending.

    • Yes absolutely. If they really think they shouldnt be banned then they should move to courts to get them legalize first rather than complaining

  17. Bull….. I have nothing to hide. Do you?
    What are you discussing on your WhatsApp that you want to hide?
    I was waiting for this article. Let’s discuss on topic in hand. You want druggies whatsapp privacy to be protected. I oppose this and so would millions of Indians

    • Why don’t I get to see your private life pics?
      That’s the meaning of privacy, and if you are ok with your and your family’s private life being released, is fine.
      And before you start creating a scene, Private life includes talking to girlfriend, or sharing something too personal too

    • I am shocked at the very essence of this article.
      Has Print and it’s reporters gone bonkers.
      If it is a case of national security or criminal activities there has to be right of access of any information…privacy of such people is dangerous for mankind. Normal privacy is basically to safe guard your business interests or family matters.
      But when things turn criminal or anti national thier should not be any privacy at all..I hope Print sees sense in what is right for human kind and not try to teach human rights.
      The fundamental right of Hans is to first live peacefully without fear.
      It is being increasingly discussed that Print is writing paid or fake news at the behest of its funding promoters and loosing it’s credibility fast…with rising awareness due to multiple sources of information people are able to make out malafide intentions of such article and will not support trade with brands who advertise with such media and you are bound to suffer for such irresponsible article. The journalists you have seem to be radicalised early in thier life.

  18. “Shoe I am “you STUPIDO.

    When the police in DELHI AND BANGALORE are identifying rioters . We should divert attention towards non issues.

    Remember the rioters are our vote banks. Let’s divide Hindus and ensure proselytizers come back in power.

    Rent a journalist will prosper under our regime and rehabilitation of journalist cum middlemen will be priority.

    Meanwhile let’s eat PASTA and pizza with mozzarella cheese. MAMMAMIA.

  19. Finally, The print is with bullywood drugies and PR campaigns. Wow so nice to see this kind of articles..nice try to fool the Citizens of INDIA.

  20. If you are a drug peddler, terror kingpin, drug addict, a wannabe bomber, a smalltime crook, a riot instigator, a maoist, a naxal…. Then this piece is meant for you. You need to protect your communications, and cite ‘privacy invasion’ as the excuse. You need to ensure that no one, specially those media persons who dont get vociferous approval from JNU Jholachaap gang, can read how you procured your drugs, weapons, acid, landmines. Got it? This is liberal thought stupid!

  21. Disgusting topic for a discussion right now.
    If you have not done wrong then why to worry?
    If you are a peddler ,then you have to really think over it.
    I know your friend Anushka Ranjan father Shashi Ranjan.
    Peeping into someone’s chat is very important right now to get to know who killed SSR, Whether you, penguin, imtiyaz khatri, suraj pancholi or someone else murdered SSR.

  22. Apple does mention about giving privacy to the users. The article also mentions about not uploading data to icloud as it can be hacked. I feel that there is a conflict in these two statements.

  23. What a baseless article
    It wasnt only Navika kumar who got the access ..it was other news channels as well. Forgods sake. Shes part of TIMES NOW , times now got the chats and they all got the chats VIA NCB .. they have sources unlike u people who keep printing blind articles .

  24. If you are talking about common citizens who follow the rule of law then Privacy Law must be strengthen but for those involved in criminal activities, there must be no safeguard…Like we have the DNA sampling law…which is for criminal….So what Tom,Arnab and Navika are showing are only related to drugs , in that case there is no need for such a hue and cry.

    Also i have a way simpler suggestion for you all : Stop using electronics gadgets…U will be safe.

  25. A shoddily written article which doesn’t address the issue
    Privacy violation is not causes due to bad technology but by the people who had acess to these sensitive chats
    Is the real cause domestic chat available on whatsapp or is it the fact that someone in ncb leaking it? Or is it bad media where such claims may even have been concoted?

    Can’t same thing happen if rhea had verbally confessed and that recorded confession would have leaked?
    Privacy issue is valid but don’t try to link it with whatever you find convenient

  26. As expected, The Print attempts a whitewash.
    Hey, wake up. No communication is secure. Agencies have been snooping for centuries.
    Law abiding people have nothing to fear.

  27. If not for Arnab & Navika, the muck wouldn’t have been brought to light. Everything would have continued to even bigger proportions as if nothing is bad. Imagine these idiots consuming drugs and bring brand ambassadors to big brands! If it wasn’t fort Sushant’s death, these idiots wouldn’t have been exposed. Thanks to Arnab & Navika.

  28. hated your comment
    Just shut up…. How much money that they have paid to you……..
    Idiots
    The actress and manager have themselves disclosed these chats

  29. Yo. BTW india has pretty stringent privacy laws….but if a component agency requests a third party sms provider or company it’s obliged to provide information on the same…anyhow most corps like Whatsapp and Snapchat have cleary defined in their TOS (Terms of Service – which y’all agreed to) that they can send data to certain govt agencies with respect to terrorism, anti-national elements, fake news and maybe drugs (don’t quote me on that though)

    Don’t come at me pls
    Peace

  30. While I like you, Shivan Vij, and agree with your article as far as it relates to Privacy. However, your comparison with a nasty fight with the spouse with a chat about procuring and consuming drungs is like comparing apples and oranges with nut-bolts and may be a car tyre. Please do not let your intelligence be clouded by your apparent biases to this extent. Stay focussed bro!

  31. There is a much better strategy to deal with embarassing messages and chats. Don’t have them. Don’t do drugs. Don’t do bad things.

  32. Mr VIj, since you write opinions keeping in my highest virtues. Now, if the same WhatsApp chat leak was between PM Modi and Mr Amit Shah, would you have still come up with article on privacy or would you take the leaks as the basis and write loooong article about that.

  33. Shri Vij, seems to be scared of his chats getting revealed. This is a completely uncharacteristic and “out of expertise” write up from him.

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