Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Did you download the latest...?

My last post on sharing banking credentials is common knowledge for everyone.  This time, I'm writing about a topic that's more relevant to today's generation - torrents.

Its an open secret that most people pirate online using torrents.  But we shouldn't take it for granted just because a lot of people do it.  Simply because your mom or cousin asked you to download that old Chandrababu song, it doesn't make it legal.  Of course, I'm not going to say that you shouldn't do it or that I've never done it.  But at least be aware of what you are doing and be cautious.  I've seen people send torrent files over e-mail.  Movie/game studios in India are not (yet) suing individuals over pirated downloads, but it happens in US.  Soon, it might happen here as well.  If/when such a day comes, your e-mail can and will be used against you.

Why would gmail or yahoo give your private e-mails to movie studios, you ask?  Well, there are ways a company can ask the government to force another company to give their data about you.  "There is no such law in India", you say.  Well, not now, but in the near future?  As it is right now, the Indian government is applying pressure on companies like facebook and google to open servers in India so that the government can monitor and have more control (laws) over the data.  Indian government already ranks second highest in the number of requests for user information to facebook.

I've also seen people post screenshots of their torrent downloads in facebook.  Some people post that they are going to download a torrent or even link to a torrent.  You may feel that you have a right to do this or that the copyright laws are unfair.  Well, I too feel that way but still, are you ready to go to court with that defense?  There are already instances of ordinary people getting arrested over facebook posts, though that was for political reasons.  Just one step away.

Lets assume that such a future never pans out.  Lets assume that corporate companies never get around to taking action against individuals.  Still, past online activities can also affect your job application.  How?  Well, certain companies research online including social networks about their potential employees.  I've even heard of instances abroad where the company asks for the candidate's facebook password.  But why would the company care if you downloaded Titanic?  Maybe you are applying for a movie studio or maybe its an IT company and wants to see whether you respect copyright laws (which is vital for IT companies).

This may surprise you, but Indian IT companies have started looking into social networks like linkedIn for potential hires.  I first read about this last month but then last week, I met a few people who came for an interview because the company had called them directly after seeing their linkedIn page.

None of this has an immediate impact on anyone's life today, but its worth being cautious about because we can never really predict the future.