Cyber stalking: Loopholes abound
Date of Publishing:23/8/2010
AS CRIME MOVES ONLINE, SO DOES POLICING BUT EXPERTS SAY LEGAL LACUNAE REMAIN
WHEN a department head with a technology firm in Bangalore, wanted to repeatedly meet up with a female subordinate outside work, but was frustrated in his attempts, he decided to play nasty. He posted intimate chat conversations which the object of his obsession had with her boyfriend on various social networking sites, and splattered the text with obscene, doctored images of the lady.
The matter spread like wildfire, as such events tend to do. Obviously, the profile from which those pictures had been uploaded, was found to be fake. But the culprit, Rajaram, who thought he had covered his footprints with a ghost profile, was in for a shock. In a matter of 24 hours, he was cooling his heels in a police lock-up, with conclusive proof of his involvement in the case.
As crime moves online, so does policing. "Advanced technology makes it possible to retrieve the content of offensive messages along with details of the sender even when those have not been stored," says Sunita Rebecca Cherian, general manager, Talent Engagement and Development, Wipro Technologies. The information security guys team up with the Prevention of Sexual Harassment Committee panelists, and also work with relevant external agencies when needed.
As the Internet has spread, cases of online harassment, in chat rooms, over email and on social networking sites have also risen. Sociologist Aarti Kalra believes that anonymity on the Internet is the primary lure for cyber-stalkers . "The web gives people an opportunity to be faceless—an individual may seem perfectly sweet and nice in real life, but he could be a creep underneath," she says. She points out that with now with Internet access on mobile phones, people do not have the time to cool off after a fall-out or a rejection. "He will do something right after that which did not happen before," she says.
Sometimes nothing is said or done. "One case I handled was about this boss who would just check his subordinate's email. He had no authority to do that, and he did it to know if she was romantically involved with someone, or was attracted to some colleague," says Pavan Duggal, a Supreme Court lawyer who specialises in cases of cyber law. The problem is largely dealt with from the recruitment stage itself, says Cherian. "A little care in selecting employees can go a long way," she says. This done, the induction stage in Wipro also covers this topic. But what if they forget or think this is all talk? "There are periodic refresher modules on this, which employees are required to complete," she says.
Cyber stalking is another problem that is typically the handiwork of a frustrated colleague, even ex-colleagues. Nearly 10 years after the passage of the IT Act, response to online harassment, in companies outside the top league, is still slow. Though provisions of the Act addressed offences such as publication of obscene information, it did not mention crimes like cyber stalking, morphing someone's faces on nude bodies and mailjacking . "The Act was amended in 2008, but it did not directly deal with the issue of online stalking," says Amit Singh, a Supreme Court lawyer. The problem is classified as an "intrusion on the privacy or modesty of an individual". And worse, it is a bailable offence.
In an organisation, being known or caught and the threat of losing his job is something that acts as a preventive against such crime. Cherian says that in some cases in Wipro, experts from their security team came together with the panel investigating the case and helped them trace the computer from which the victim was harassed. Also, it is not necessary that the first complaint be by the victim - someone who has seen it happen can also file one. "The speed and confidentiality with which complaints are investigated builds confidence in employees who raise concerns," she says.
It was in 1997 in Vishaka Vs State of Rajasthan case that for the first time sexual harassment was explicitly, legally defined as an unwelcome sexual gesture or behaviour. But with toothless laws, the guilty can easily go unpunished. As stated by the Supreme Court, the guidelines are applicable to "the employer or other responsible persons or other institutions to prevent sexual harassment and to provide procedures for the resolution of complaints", but only 10-15% of organisations in India have adequate guidelines and have spread awareness among employees, according to Nirmala Menon, CEO, Interweave Consulting. That said, the same companies have clearly shown the way—whatever be the form, sexual harassment will not be tolerated.
Web Resource for Reference of the Above Mentioned Article: