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Fake identity may lead to real crisis

15 October 2007

Next time you provide fictitious details about yourself on the net or use offensive language, you could risk being sent to jail for it. As a new proposed law brings all this under the ambit of the IT Act, DT does a reality check.

While making your email ID or opening a new account on a social networking site, did you fudge your details like 90 per cent of the net users do? After all, chatting or making a profile on a social networking site on the net has always been about being what you want to be rather than what you are.

The maximum number of net users, for reasons ranging from the innocuous to the criminal, never reveal their real details on the net. But if a recent government move is anything to go by, it will have none of it anymore. Furnishing false details or having a false identity on the net may soon become a punishable offence. DTfocuses on the changing laws in cyberia.

The new cyber crimes

The minister of state in the communications and information technology ministry said recently that the existing laws will be amended to primarily fight new forms of cyber crimes like phishing, identity thefts, video voyeurism and sexually explicit material on the net. But to tackle these bigger crimes, the government wants to make the net transparent. “Another section would be added in the proposed Information Technology Act 2006, which would make it a punishable offence to provide any false information on the net. It will be punishable by imprisonment of up ‘to two years,” says an official at the ministry And not only this, people who use offensive language on the net can also find themselves on the wrong side of the law.

The much-talked-about obscene MMSes will also be punishable, “Under the new proposed law, capturing images of an individual and transmitting them without his/her consent will be considered a crime,” says the official.

‘Two years? Are you kidding?’

That’s how most of the youngsters react to the clauses of the proposed law. Dhiren Ahuja, a 15-year-old student who has given his details as a 25-year- old jet-setting executive on a networking site, asks, “But these sites are meant for fun. What’s the harm if I provide a few false details? And not just me, all my friends do the same on the net.”

Concurs 23-year-old sales exec Neha Sareen, “With all kinds of perverts on the net, why would any sane person want to reveal all true details? Also, as far as posting offensive messages are concerned, who will decide the definition of offensive?”


Giving false details about yourself while making an email ID

Having a false identity on the net
Publishing of material containing sexually explicit acts in electronic form
Video voyeurism
Breach of confidentiality and leakage of data by service providers
E-commerce frauds, phishing and identity theft
Sending offensive messages
Capturing images of a person without his/her knowledge and transmitting them without his/her consent

Actor Shreyas Talpade found himself an unlikely victim of this trend recently “I was on a social networking site. I used to get so many scraps asking me if I was the real Shreyas. I withdrew from the site and I recently came to know that there were 10 fake Shreyas Talpades there!”

Model-turned-actor Rajneesh Duggal says, “Internet should be used for the right reasons. If this screening process is put through, the number of web frauds and harassment issues will be addressed.”

Whither implementation?

The experts feel so too. Says NASSCOM president Kiran Karnik, “The proposed act will discourage illegal activities on the Net I expect a substantial reduction in impersonation and harassment cases.”

However, there are still a lot of loose ends in the law. A senior Delhi Police official says, “I have my reservations about the proposed changes. It is difficult to catch people with fake addresses.

We will have to see what kind of system of implementation they come up with.”

Cyber law expert Pawan Duggal adds, “I feel the punishment should be decided keeping the gravity of the crime in mind. There are issues like phishing, electronic payment, cyber terrorism that are not covered completely under the new act.”

Neha, who had earlier lodged a complaint after somebody made her fake profile on a site, is all for the new law. “Somebody made an obscene profile of mine, with indecent scraps and a morphed picture and posted it to all my friends. I was completely shattered. With these laws in place, such people will be easily found out.”


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