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Report: Advertisers share citizens’ personal data without consent!

In the lack of a data protection policy, there has been an increase in the use of loopholes by websites and applications to modify data for different advertising objectives. According to a recent LocalCircles survey, 53% of residents polled had seen adverts on the web/apps based on phone calls at least once in the previous year. The study received more than 38,000 responses, with 48 percent from Tier I cities, 27 percent from Tier-II cities, and 25 percent from Tier III and Tier IV cities and rural areas.

Many applications request permission to utilise the user’s microphone; however, in many circumstances, consumers are ignorant of why their phone’s microphone is being used or where this data is being sent, other than the service they want. A few of them even record the user’s voice, intruding on their privacy rights. Some users, for example, have alleged that Truecaller, the caller-identification software, gives personally identifiable information, such as the name linked with a mobile phone number and, on occasion, job, email address, and even the name of the employer, without the user’s agreement.

While 28 percent of respondents have seen advertising based on private phone calls on a daily basis, 19 percent have had similar experiences many times. Only 6% of citizens said it had ‘happened a few times’,¬†while 24% said it had never happened. According to some accounts, shutting off the microphone can help prevent applications from listening in on private conversations. Many applications, however, require the phone’s microphone for speech to text, call, record voice, and so on, so it’s not a viable solution for them.

According to the report, the majority of Indians have allowed their mobile microphone access for audio/video calls, social networking, and audio recording applications. Only 11% of citizens had not granted their microphone access to any applications, while 18% had no opinion. Around 84 percent of smartphone users have allowed WhatsApp access to their contact list, 51 percent have given it to Facebook, Instagram, or both, and 41 percent have provided it to applications like Truecaller.

Governments all across the world are tightening down on companies that use people’s personal information for profit. One of the most significant data-gathering rules is the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which entered into force in 2018. The Indian Parliament has yet to ratify the ‘Personal Data Protection Bill 2019,’ and the Joint Parliamentary Committee has been meeting with various stakeholders since 2018. The Bill strives to create legal and statutory protection for users’ or citizens’ personal information, and it recognizes personal data protection as an individual right.

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