From the Viewsroom

Keeping it digitally safe

PT Jyothi Datta | Updated on February 04, 2021

The govt must publicise its helplines and support initiatives

It’s not clear if art imitates life or the other way round, but a recent television commercial on tackling unsolicited calls to women appears to have struck a chord.

Although an anecdotal observation, women do seem to be seeing an increase in the number of calls and messages from strangers, and this has little to do with their age or their social-media visibility.

The educated guess is that more people have had to rely on online services and payments during the lockdown, and this meant that phone numbers and addresses were getting registered on multiple websites, apps and so on. And though companies insist they have the best fire-walls, it’s quite evident across the world that data tends to leak.

On the lighter side, one woman points to marketing messages on an expensive watch that come in the name of her pet dog. And that’s because her home phone-number is under the dog’s name in her mobile-phone directory.

But on a sinister note, women point to apps that link names, phone numbers, financial transactions, family profiles and pictures, making the whole story available to people putting the database together. And, all it takes is for one of them to go rogue and share the details with others like him. That becomes the start of a harrowing experience for the person they decide to harass with calls, messages, threats, and getting worse.

While women worry about their physical safety, men who are not tech-savvy also feel vulnerable. A taxi-driver recently recounted how he felt unsafe using services on his smart-phone, for fear his details may go into the wrong hands.

It is late to put the genie back into the bottle. But going digital should extend to keeping people safe, as well. The Government and the police need to publicise their helplines and support initiatives so that women, and men, can reach out to them in the face of a threat.

Published on February 04, 2021

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