So Mark Zuckerberg’s here, selling India its digital dream. The Facebook CEO, one of the world’s youngest and richest, in his two-day India trip, has stressed on connectivity and widening the internet reach. Zuckerberg, who owns a 200-billion-dollar company that has been an integral part of NSA-driven US surveillance of millions of people, including those in India, has now donned the mantle of the digital messiah.
Evidently, he wants us to forget the enormous market that India is for his expansive ambition. Hence, we should take Mister Zuckerberg’s message with a pinch of salt, simply because unless there’s a clear admission on Facebook’s part that there has been extensive surveillance of American, Indian and citizens of almost every other nation, the altruistic instinct will always remain shrouded under the shadow of compulsive snitching.
Facebook, like Google, AOL, and other internet behemoths, must acknowledge that they have been conduits of US’ paranoid need to snoop and collect data, most often intimate details from a person’s life (such as her medical records, her private conversations, her financial details, her photographs and videos, her biometric data, her work history). That is a breach of the fundamental right to privacy, dignity. Hence, Zuckerberg’s ‘commitment to basic net access’, while a commendable move in itself, needs to be contextualised in the history of US’s worldwide cyber espionage. When Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO, had visited India sometime back and met PM Modi, she too had conveniently skirted the topic.
It is true that India could do with a bit of legwork from Facebook, Google, Microsoft and other prominent US companies that have had defining relationship with the information age. However, bridging the digital gulf cannot come at the expense of becoming stooges in a cyberbattle that American conglomerates are waging against people everywhere.