Thiruvananthapuram: Through its decision on Tuesday, the state leadership of the Communist Party of India Marxist (CPM) has taken a new position about data privacy and protection, which is likely to open a door of far-reaching consequences in the national politics of the Left, knowingly or unknowingly.
In its penchant for protecting its star chief minister of Kerala, Pinarayi Vijayan, the state committee in a way was constrained to zero in on this stance, after his government decided to award a contract of compiling, storing and analysing health data related to Covid-19, to a US-based entity Sprinklr.
As a political party with ideological moorings, the CPM has always raised its voice in favour of protecting privacy as a constitutional right. But the state committee meeting, which was attended by no less than four members of the Polit Bureau (PB), reached a position that in extra-ordinary circumstances privacy of the individual is not crucial.
The party laboured the point of curbs on the fundamental right to travel to prevent Covid which has been accepted all over the world as essential in the peculiar situation. Taking umbrage under this argument, the party justified the act of transferring all the data about the health of the people to a private firm.
However, the state leadership's position remaining as it is, the stance taken by its national leadership, side by side with that of the Communist Part of India (CPM), its ruling in Kerala, will also be pivotal in setting the norm.
Throughout its history, it has been a forte of the CPM to uphold its political standpoints even at the face of any political challenges. In more recent times, that stiff line was amply manifested in the party's public advocacy of individual privacy in the case of Aadhaar, and in data pirated by Cambridge Analytica.
In other instances of such campaigns, when the Central Election Comission tried to use Google and Facebook to transmit messages, the PB had used strong words to reproach that move. And during the hearing of those cases in the Supreme Court, Pinarayi Vijayan himself had pointed out the risks of foreign entities handling data.
But what the state leadership has now come to is that in extraordinary situations, all this can be set aside. Other states, who work in parallel to Kerala in the matter of preventing the spread of Covid, have not entered into any deal of sharing people's health data with processors.
However, at the party's secretariat session, the chief minister did not speak at all regarding the sprinklr controversy. The party's position and actions were explained by party secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan. No such explanation was given as would raise fresh controversy, the focus being on countering the Opposition protests.
The proceedings in the Higth Court in this regard following a petition challenging the government's decision, which led to some adverse comments by the High Court, did not come up before the meeting.