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May 2018

MIB: VIEWERSHIP CHIPS IN DTH STBS


The I&B ministry has proposed compulsory installation of a chip in all new DTH STBs. These chips will monitor the channels being watched by the DTH consumer & relay back to the I&B ministry, details of the channels watched and their duration.

A senior MIB official claimed the move is aimed to get 'more authentic' viewership figures for every channel. A ministry official alleged that Doordarshan's vast viewership is not correctly reported by BARC's data & that BARC is "almost like a monopoly and there is no alternative" and it "does not reveal how they arrive at the viewership figures, methodology they apply and the area of survey." He said the BARC measures viewership by installing 30,000 people meter, which are soldered to the TV's mother board. Nobody would allow this on their own TV sets, hence every monitored home knew, lowering the assessment quality by people-meters.

The viewership chips are a direct affront to BARC's work and reports.



VIEWING CHIP ILLEGAL?

Is the compulsory insertion of a monitor chip in all DTH STBs, that will relay detailed viewing patterns illegal? Some opinions:

"The proposal to collect viewership details of the entire population, instead of a sample, is dangerous as TV viewing patterns could give a lot of information about a person, their political preferences, hobbies and what not," Prasanth Sugathan at New Delhi-based Software Freedom Law Centre (SFLC.in), a non-profit organisation, told IANS.

The STB could soon become a surveillance device akin to the "Orwellian Telescreen".






The MIB has also asked the TRAI to recommend if the chips could be made compulsory in DTH STBs by including a clause in the new DTH license.

The TRAI responded "Regarding asking DTH operators to install a chip in new set-top boxes, it is stated that this is a new issue and cannot be part of the reference. If the MIB desires TRAI's recommendation on this issue, it may send a separate reference to TRAI as per the provisions of the TRAI Act 1997."






INVASION OF PRIVACY

The MIB has not offered to pay for these chips and their addition to all new STBs, even though the government will have exclusive access to this data.

By informing the government every detail of what is viewed by each consumer, the Content monitoring chip will also provide highly personal information of each viewer (without the viewer's consent), including political preferences, personal interests etc.

Incidentally, the Supreme Court has held that the right to privacy, both personal and data privacy, is a fundamental right.

It is surprising that the I&B ministry has once again (after its recent retracted move to delist journalists) proposed an aggressive new compulsory move, that invades the privacy of more than 50% of the Indian population! n



"Installing a chip on STBs would amount to violation of right to privacy, both personal and data privacy, which has been declared as a fundamental right by the Supreme Court of India," Pavan Duggal, the nation's leading cyber law expert, told IANS.

"Such a chip can be used to monitor variety of other behaviours. Since a lot of people use smart TVs, the chip may even reveal the browsing habits and personal preferences of such users," Duggal emphasised