Technology is both – a boon as well as a bane. With the onset of the “internet era” and the availability and accessibility to internet surfing or rather, “high-speed data”, the dynamics today has changed drastically – both at the domestic as well as the international level.

High-speed Internet access has broken multiple barriers and helped bring the world closer, helping foster better communication ties, international relations, economic and political relations and the like.

The online world, be it for the consumers, businesses, technocrats, or a common man, has made life much easier for each one of them. Just to cite a few examples which throw light on the benefits due to the internet are online shopping, access to unlimited information, the supply of new data in terms of news or knowledge-based general information, etc.

Right to Privacy

With the boon of easy access to the online world, lies the bane of the presence of criminal elements on the platform. The question of debate since the beginning has been the privacy of individuals. To be specific, the privacy of women online has been and continues to be at greater risk. And not just on one platform.

Even though most social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp,  promote, encourage and make efforts to protect the privacy, the nefarious elements seep their way into tweaking it.

On a personal level, as a woman, even with regulatory controls for my safety, I DO NOT FEEL SAFE ONLINE. As a matter of fact, I am aware that somehow I am constantly being “watched” upon, or my activities are being “tracked”.

Is deleting my recent history an option to ensure my safety? NO! No matter what I delete, I know for a fact that my “online footprints” will remain. I do fear my pictures being misused by criminal elements into serving their own vested interests. The application tools to morph images have made it so very convenient for a few people to edit and paste images of people from across whenever and wherever they like.

Fake Profiles

The problem of “fake profiles” is yet another issue that haunts women, and sometimes men are the target of the same. Images of one woman can easily be used to create a fake profile which is operated by a male to rake in a few people and sometimes, it leads to violation of national interests – the recent case of an official of the Indian Air Force being honey trapped into leaking of secret data to a “woman” online on Facebook.

 Online Stalking

Another issue is online stalking. I have lost count of the number of lewd messages I have received from unknown people on Facebook, Instagram, even WhatsApp! Who gives these “unknown” people the right to speak to me?

The problem is highly bothersome for women who are well-known. Like social media influencers to YouTuber’s to bloggers, celebrities and the like.

How do you reverse the psychological damage caused to an individual?

Nothing can ever compensate for the emotional trauma experienced due to the constant negative, lewd and derogatory comments.

Digital Trust Dialogues by SheThePeople and Google

Sexually Explicit Content

A major issue that continues to do the rounds is regarding the porn industry. Women and teenage girls, who are unfortunately raped, experience the video of their ordeal going viral online. The fact that uploading any video only is so easy isn’t an issue – it is, the video being viewed by thousands and being circulated further within their own group continues to create a ripple effect.

What should be done?

  • The focus should, remain to solve the issues which threaten the online safety. Also to restore faith and confidence among the people, especially women, by their respective governments.
  • Having regulatory controls isn’t enough. With advanced software technology, the professional hackers have always found ways to make inroads into hacking encrypted systems.
  • It is significant to encourage and educate people regarding privacy of individuals both online and offline. Strict and stricter punishments should be imposed upon these who faulter.
  • We are dealing with the upbringing, background and psychological state of mind of these criminal elements in the society. It is difficult to change the consciousness of an individual. It comes from within. Thus, the issue is deeper than what it seems on the surface.

Freedom has been given to us. It should be used for the good of the society. However, anything good should be exercised with restraint.

Astha Vaishnav is a student of Mithibai college of Arts, Mumbai and this effort is a part of Google India and SheThePeople initiative Digital Trust Dialogues across colleges in India.

Also Read: Modern era has presented a new concept of safety for Indian women

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