Not long ago, Indian Government warned Facebook of stringent legal action if the social networking website is found misusing data. The stringent warning came from no one but the Union Law and justice and Electronic & IT minister, Mr. Ravi Shankar Prasad. Who publicly said: Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, can be summoned to India if required.
Now close to a month later, some newspapers are reporting that this cannot be done — Facebook cannot be legally tried in India. These newspaper reports will now be easily tagged as those misquoting the minister or; the minister meant taking other legal actions. But we must remember that the day minister made the statement — He was speaking in context of data theft (data already stolen). So these reports are not misquoting the Government now.
Actually, the reality that Facebook cannot be legally tried in India always seemed to be the case. Even the day the minister stringently warned Facebook. But as happens with everything said “sternly” in India, we just accepted the words.
So as of today, it is becoming more or less clear that a stern legal action cannot be taken against Facebook in India. if you want to know more about whether the minister’s words carry some weight, then you can look for articles online and in newspapers. Some have already started publishing articles separating fact from fiction on Facebook data or Cambridge Analytica’s Indian data connection. The essence of these articles is — Facebook cannot be legally tried in India.
That said, what was it that was evading our collective common sense when the Govt said it will take stern legal action against Facebook?
The common sense that — How will the Govt. take stern legal action against Facebook when data is legally stored outside India; that too by taking adequate permission from Facebook users in India?
The common sense that — How can a company set up in some other country be tried in India?
We also didn’t question, the most simple of all logic: If various governments have to file data removal request applications to Google, Facebook, Twitter etc. — then will it be possible for the same Governments to take stringent legal action against them? (Yes, Google publishes the number of data removal request applications submitted to it by various Governments every year).
So there was always something telling us: It will be easier said, than done. But most of us, allowed the rhetoric to prevail.
Now lets talk about productive learning. The concept is related to the thread of the article.
It is often said that people must learn about laws related to them. The advice is downright unnecessary. People neither have time nor it is productive for them to learn about everything they are related to or consume. Any person who wants to succeed in life must focus on his/her profession. That is it, nothing more nothing less. We cannot learn everything and we must not try to learn everything. This is Productive learning.
Because humans practice productive learning (A learning which saves resources such as time, money and mental capacity); hence Governments, Leaders, Media must not expect us to fact check every piece of information which they throw at us. Instead they must practice utmost responsibility while making public statements. When Governments, leaders and media inform us, they must understand that the information not only informs us, it also affects us and our rights. Hence they must not misinform.
To conclude, it is important for our Governments to tell us the correct situation. If they need a couple of hours or days to get the real picture, then they must take the time. But they saying something simply becasue real facts take time to percolate will not help.
After all Governments must remember that — Big words have never helped anyone, including the Governments.