Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Citizens use spycatching gear to take on corrupt officials

In India’s capital territory of New Delhi, the Aam Aadmi Party (common man’s party) made a spectacular debut onto India’s political landscape with the promise to remove deeply rooted petty corruption, within the administration.

Within days of taking office, the new government installed an anti-corruption helpline to give advice to citizens on how to conduct sting operations on corrupt officials, by recording evidence - either audio or video against the bribe taker. Using the evidence generated from such stings as prima facie proof, the government’s anticorruption bureau would later lay traps to catch these officials red-handed and then arrest them. The prime objective behind this crusade is to strike fear into corrupt officials and minimize corruption.

Within three days, the 23,000 calls received by the helpline amply indicated the extent of the common man’s frustration; and the resultant motivation to turn into anti-graft crusaders. Delhi witnessed a surge in the sales of spy catching devices, for audio and video recording - innocuously disguised into caps, glasses, bags and even water bottles.

While, there may be positive fallouts from reducing corruption, there could be social consequences, if their use impinges onto the privacy of individuals. Spy gadgets, can be used for nefarious purposes such a blackmail, defamation, abuse, and so on. In some cases, the compliant may be malicious motivated and even fudge recordings to defame or entrap honest officials.