ASKEPTICAL VIEW AT INDIA’S EMPLOYEES PRIVACY CONCERNS AMIDST HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUE

Introduction

With the magnification of technology and the conduct of businesses around the globe, there is an equivalent concern of privacy. The risk of personal data of employees at the verge of being misinterpreted or misused has escalated. The shielding of personal data forms an intrinsic value of privacy for an employee at a workplace. In the Indian context, the notion of privacy at workplaces has not achieved a sense of clarity and often tends to dwindle at the behest of employers. In the Justice KS Puttaswamy vs. Union of India, the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India has declared that the right to privacy is a fundamental right articulated under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. The point of contention is that this right can only be enforced against the state and not against the private sector. Therefore, the issues about the personal breaches of the right to privacy do not fall under the ambit of the mentioned provision.

Through this piece of work, the author’s objective is to discuss; Firstly, the co-relation between privacy and human rights and theinterplay of SDG-8; Secondly, the global context of privacy in other spheres; Thirdly, the relevant impact and instances in furtherance to the global analysis.

The Profound Saga of Human Rights: Amidst Privacy Concerns

The connotation of privacy reinforces human dignity and other vital elements in the contemporary time. However, Privacy has not become the subset of human rights in all spheres. The UN Declaration of Human Rights has acknowledged the postulation of privacy as a fundamental human right. Now, when it comes to the corporate globe, the increasingly modern and comprehensive network has raised pertinent questions regarding human rights. In securing efficiency, active participation and surveillance, the employers gradually intruded upon the private sphere of the respective employee at the workplace. Furthermore, curtailment of privacy will unquestionably rebuke the notion of human rights.

A coherent strategy and vision for fair business standards require guiding principles. United Nations Guiding Principles have marked specific measures to address infringement of human rights of individuals in business (corporate world). Sustainable Development Goal (SDG)-8 advocatessimilar concerns. Moreover, the 2030 Agenda of Sustainable Development isa complete course for the prosperity of people and the planet holistically. It states to understand the intricacies for achieving human rights in all its forms. Employment is a powerful weapon for the optimum prosperity and growth of an individual. The relationship between an employer and an employee and the desired outcome becomes the asset of any organization. Unaccounted supervision and entering the private domain of the employees consequently hampers the holistic development of an individual. These risks bestowed upon the employee’s human rights posesrisks to the business itself. The interference in the working pattern will ultimately have an impact upon the results so obtained. Human rights that actually form the bedrock of social development and other necessary development must be duly addressed.

The Vision of Employees’ Stake in Privacy: Global Scenario

The dilemmas around the globe have passed several jurisdictions regarding privacy concerns. The approach towards the privacyof employees in India andthe west has specific differences. The policy commitment and the regulatory framework also engage different perspectives to counter. The divergent approach in European nations and the United States have addressed the concern in an apt manner.

The European model has enforced that privacy is a human right and government interference should be necessitated to do the needful. Moreover,employers are prohibited from engaging with personal emails, and the details of employees are regulated efficiently. The protection of the personal information of the employees is the utmost concern for these nations. A holistic work environment is maintained where employee’s privacy is not compromised for the sake of unfair and unaccountable monitoring. A strict prohibition of sharing the privacy data of employees is kept until “expressed permission”. Additionally, the employees have certain expectations in their working regime for their personal space. However, when engaging with the US model, it has been observed that employers are bestowed with certain obligations that require them to impose necessary supervision. For instance, in a US corporate set-up, an employer may need to establish cameras in the workstations for security purposes. It is to be reiterated that the US government engages with privacy effectively though its approach is quite dissimilar with that of European nations. Now, regarding the legislations passed in India such as the Information Technology Act, 2000 and other subsequent amendments somehow necessitate the protection of sensitive data. India’s approach towards privacy protection does not conform to the strict pro-employee framework as that of Europeans, rather it entails a more balanced and flexible view of the US. India as a nation has a belief to maintain reasonable standards when it comes to applicability and protection of privacy laws.

Relevant Impact and Instance Analysis

With the increase in span of usage of internet and technology, it has been observed that several modern ways have been devised in the present realm. The usage of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) at the work-sites presents reasonable privacy contentions. This is a device that is equipped with GPS technology and is used for storing data via radio transmission. Through this device information can be interpreted from a safe distance. At the initial stage, this device was basically used to prohibit shop lifting. Moreover, these days such devices are placed to have strict surveillance on the employers.

Other devices such as cameras pose negative psychological impact upon the employers. The irresistible increase of anxiety has resulted in the reduction of productivity levels of employees. Supreme Court in the case, Neera Mathur v. LIC, ordered the corporation in question to remove the personal information hampering a person’s dignity. Herein, an employee Neera Mathurwas asked to provide personal details such as pregnancies and menstrual cycles. Such questions were against the spirit of person’s autonomy and deliberately affected their human rights.

Conclusion

The relation between privacy and human rights should be under scrutiny for its careful implementation. The Corporate world demands minute supervision of such notions. The technological development has led important point of contentions when it comes to private space for employees. For effective and efficient outcome, it is essential that employees are given enough space to work. However, India still needs rigorous provisions for protection of personal data and information of employees. Preserving the privacy will ultimately shield the individuals against arbitrary infringement. The contemporary technological advancement needs attentive check to avoid negative repercussions.

The Way Forward

The concern of privacy at workplace has raised several undeniable issues that need urgent assessment. Though there are some steps that any organisation can take in order to maintain the privacy of their employees. Firstly, an explicit consent form should be drafted and then approved by the employees before any kind of private analysis of themselves. Secondly, any infringement of their private space should observe strict punishment and repercussions. Thirdly, proper redressal mechanism for employees should be established at the workplace for their grievances. Fourthly, unaccountable supervision should be prohibited. The above measures in some way can provide effective redressal for those individuals at workplace whose private space are interfered without proper accountability mechanism.


Title Image: People Matters


This article has been written by Saumya Singh, a 4th year Law student of B.Com LLB(hons.) at Institute of Law, Nirma University, Ahmedabad.