“There is a need for a legal and organisational framework”, said BJP MP Rajeev Chandrashekhar in Rajya Sabha yesterday, referring to the Algorithmic Accountability Bill that has been proposed in the US Senate. He also added that “technology is running far ahead of our laws and our ability to regulate”. Chandrasekhar argued that a trend – “algorithmic bias” – has emerged on social media platforms to either suppress or deny “certain conversations”, and at the same time amplify other conversations. According to him, social media platforms are stifling Article 19(1) of the Indian Constitution.

“Every time an individual raises an issue with these social media platforms, they hide behind the use of algorithms. But these algorithms are in effect curtailing Article 19(1) of the Constitution. With reasonable restrictions and those restrictions have not been made public by any of these social media platforms vis-a-vis their algorithms.”

He drew the attention of the House to the proposed Algorithmic Accountability Bill in the US: “The use of these automated decision systems such as machine learning and AI is increasing everywhere and I draw the attention of the House to the Algorithmic Accountability Bill that has been proposed in the US Senate.”

Amar Shankar Sable says smart TVs have robbed people of their privacy

Another BJP MP, Amar Shankar Sable raised the threat of smart devices against users’ privacy, and need for cybersecurity in the country. Vice president Venkaiah Naidu said that this was a “very sensitive issue”. “I would like to draw the attention of the House to the safety of the intimate moments of married couples. There is a threat to these couples’ privacy and that’s why there’s a dire need for cybersecurity in the country,” Sable said.

Sable explained how smart TVs have already robbed users’ of their privacy twice:

“Having a smart TV in bedrooms is dangerous. We’ve seen two instances of its misuse. Everyone here would be surprised to know that hackers have now reached our bedrooms. Recently, we witnessed two instances where hackers snooped on private moments of couples because of a smart TV. Without using much technology, they recorded the video and leaked it on the internet. The couples are now consulting a cyber crime expert to come out of this situation.”

“Algorithm” made a comeback in the MP’s speech, as he highlighted how data sent to the cloud is analysed and ultimately endangers privacy: “Smart TV and voice assistants can talk to each other and those recordings can also be shared with a third-party. Smart devices can send data to the cloud so that it can be analysed via an algorithm. Once the data is sent to the cloud, users lose their control over that data.”