India: Google assists police in Orkut user's arrest

With the arrest of Orkut user Rahul Krishnakumar Vaid last weekend, Google has joined Yahoo! on the list of multinational American internet companies that have enabled foreign law enforcement authorities to prosecute netizens in their countries; in this case, the 22 year-old Indian IT worker has been charged under two sections of the Indian Penal Code for posting obscene content online, comments made about political leader Sonia Gandhi, and now faces up to five years in prison.

As tech news website IndiaServer puts it:

This arrest was made because of complaint made by a Congress worker in Pune who had noticed these messages on Orkut recently. The police are now on a lookout for everybody who had posted some obscene content about Sonia Gandhi. However, the person who created the community has not been charged for hating a famous personality or having opinion which is illegal in India.

The law enforcement agency had asked Google, who is the owner of Orkut to provide the details of Vaid and it obliged. Google said that the police authorities had asked for the details of the boy and they gave them the IP address information. Till the time India has some strict laws regarding cyber crimes like the US, it is always better to avoid joining such communities or to join them after paying proper attention to it.

For your average 22 year-old IT worker, though, is simply avoiding sensitive online discussion a practical or even desirable solution? As other Orkut users are now asking, what happened to India's constitution?

As seen in similar cases involving Yahoo!'s operations in China, American ethical standards for corporate behavior don't always apply in other countries. While American law appears to be moving toward making it illegal for domestic companies like Google to enable foreign governments to suppress online speech, as Cyndy Aleo-Carreira reminds us in a post linked to by Global Voices Online editor Neha Viswanathan, these same companies’ overseas operations ultimately have local laws to worry about:

The prevailing mentality in the U.S. is that U.S. laws are the One True Law and the rest of the world should abide by them in some form of global agreement. I'm sure that given the U.S. government's tendency to reinterpret even the U.S. Constitution (Gitmo), there are many countries out there who are more than happy that they aren't subject to the laws of the U.S.

At least Vaid will be given a trial; and as Aleo-Carreira mentions further down in the comments of her post, the role that Indian law has played in his arrest is still what's most relevant:

According to the complaint, the individual in question crossed a similar line as it applies to Indian law. If it was a matter of simply expressing himself, then don’t you think others, including the group’s creator, would also have been charged? There is this quick jump to judgment by Americans over anything “furrin” when our own adherence to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights isn’t exactly stellar at the moment.

The complaint against Vaid goes back to December last year. What remains to be seen is how scrutiny and opposition has been aimed at the IT Act on a local level, particularly regarding the sections used against him, as well as what exactly it was Vaid put online.

For reference, Google defends its filtering of search results in China by saying that its presence alone does more for free speech than if it had no presence in China at all. Following Vaid's arrest, a number of groups have been set up on Orkut and hundreds of comments have been posted weighing heavily in Vaid's support.

8 comments

  • [...] India: Google assists police in Orkut user’s arrest – Global Voices Advocacy Moraalinsa hukannut hakuj

  • NINJA BOY

    I say this is serious violation of TOS

    I say that people should realize orkut is not a website to share your thoughts in public !

    it may affect other users directly or indirectly

    so please guys again

    Kepp your mind clean on orkut :)

  • [...] you 7. The more free Google services you use the less free you are 8. Google has got your data and we respect the local laws, so if the police calls… 9. We own your Google documents, didn’t you know? Read the ToS next time 10. We know [...]

  • [...] you 7. The more free Google services you use the less free you are 8. Google has got your data and we respect the local laws, so if the police calls… 9. We own your Google documents, didn’t you know? Read the ToS next time 10. We know [...]

  • [...] not satisfied with assisting the Chinese regime with its internet repression, Google now provides information to Indian [...]

  • GoogleObligesIndia

    # Google obliges eagerly when any law enforcement officer from India asks for *any* information, typically IP addresses and identity information.

    # Google hardly asks Indian law enforcement for any reasons why the information is needed. Google doesnt seem to care if it will be “outing” whistle blowers or activists and putting them in peril. It just obliges, period.

    # India could do great with an outsourced service for tracing IP addresses or identity. The Indian Police are always keen and eager to oblige ….. so why not ?

  • Again in 2010?

    The stories of Indian Police and Google gets wierd all the time.

    There was one case of Lakshmana Kailas wrongly arrested through Google releasing IP addresses to police. Indian police routinely beats up and tortures people, so this man received the same treatment http://valleywag.gawker.com/344918/indian-police-beat-man-google-helped-arrest

    Then there is Rahul Vaid, similar story.

    Google has become a helper of Indian police torturers.

    In 2010 again another Google aided arrest. http://tiny.cc/fafre This time it seems like Google is helping Indian police by reporting random IP addresses pointing to different countries, which is amazing.

  • [...] has previously (along with Yahoo and other web companies) played a role in assisting both the US and foreign [...]

Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »

Guidelines

  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.