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In net debate, many views on Free Basics

| PAWAN BALI
Published : Dec 31, 2015, 2:40 am IST
Updated : Dec 31, 2015, 2:40 am IST

A joint statement by IIT and IISc professors said that allowing a private entity to define for Indian Internet users what is “basic” and to have access to the personal content created and used by mill

A joint statement by IIT and IISc professors said that allowing a private entity to define for Indian Internet users what is “basic” and to have access to the personal content created and used by millions of Indians is a lethal combination which will lead to total lack of freedom on how Indians can use their own public utility, the Internet.

“In fact, it has defined itself to be the first ‘basic’ service, as evident from Reliance’s ads on Free Facebook. Now, it will require quite a stretch of imagination to classify Facebook as ‘basic’,” said the statement.

It said “this is why Facebook’s own ad scriptwriters have prompted Mr Zuckerberg to instead make emotional appeals of education and healthcare for the poor Indian masses; these appeals are misleading, to say the least.”

The statement said the major flaw in the model is that Facebook would be able to decrypt the content of the “basic” apps on its servers.

“Either we get to consider our banking apps to be not ‘basic’, or risk exposing the financial information of all Indians to Facebook. And so on. This is mind-boggling even under normal circumstances, and even more so considering the recent internal and international snooping activities by the NSA in the US,” added the statement.

The Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), the largest representative body of Internet companies in India, suggested there were clearly other transparent and more effective ways of achieving the goal to connect a billion unconnected people, including giving subsidised and non-discriminatory access directly to consumers.

The issue of Free Basics flared up after Trai earlier this month issued a consultation paper on the issue of whether telecom operators should be allowed to charge consumers differently for accessing different websites or apps.

Location: India, Delhi, New Delhi