Meghalaya HC disposes of PIL seeking probe into data privacy of Meghalaya apps, says data privacy essential

“Data privacy safeguards are sine qua non for the purpose of protecting the privacy of citizens, particularly when an app such as a Corontine or Stay Safe Meghalaya is required to be installed by a citizen at the instance of the State.”

The Meghalaya High Court made the above observation while disposing of a PIL filed by law student Jade J. Lyngdoh challenging the government order stating the apps may compromise privacy of citizens due to lack of protection of personal sensitive data.

The petition centres on two applications, namely, Corontine and Stay Safe Meghalaya, which were in operation at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, but have since been discontinued by the state. The specific contention of the petitioner is with regard to privacy of citizens particularly those residing in Meghalaya being compromised due to lack of protection of personal sensitive data of those citizens collected by the two apps.

The division bench comprising Chief Justice Biswanath Somadder and Justice H.S. Thangkhiew held,

“Although it appears during the course of hearing of the instant matter that these two apps have been discontinued, it is the bounden duty, nay, an absolute obligation on the part of the concerned authority of the state to preserve, protect and safeguard the private and personal data of its citizens so that someone somewhere does not breach the walls of privacy and utilize the private and personal data of the citizens collected by these two apps for such purposes other than the specific purpose for which the two apps were created.”

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The Court while disposing of the PIL with the direction upon the concerned department of the state government to look into the specific allegations made by the writ petitioner – as contained in the pleadings – by causing a thorough inquiry in respect thereof and ensure that any private or personal data collected from the citizens who have used the two apps are not misused or disseminated in any manner and department of the state government shall adhere to all privacy protocols that are now in place in the state of Meghalaya as well as in India.
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