Raise your privacy shield

In an age of data breaches and state surveillance, founder of Doosra, Aditya Vuchi, talks about the importance of a privacy stack.
For representational purposes (Express Illustrations)
For representational purposes (Express Illustrations)

HYDERABAD:  India lacks a single coherent statute legislation on data privacy, while the Constitution still upholds the right to privacy. Data leaks have become frequent in the country, the recent being from online platforms such as BigBasket, Domino’s, MobiKwik and Air India. With the recent revelation by France-based media organisation Forbidden Stories that the Indian government surveilled 50,000 prominent figures through the Pegasus software, privacy of data has become paramount in today’s vulnerable digital ecosystem. 

In the wake of such constant data breaches, founder and CEO of virtual mobile number app Doosra, Aditya Vuchi, aims to build an entire ‘privacy stack’. Starting from the phone number, Aditya aims to provide security for your email address, payment instruments, and with Aditya’s another venture Zippr, also carve out an alternate digital address. 

Doosra, which was launched in 2020, is India’s first 10-digit SIM-free subscription-based mobile number that helps users to safeguard their identity from spammers and scammers. Through the app, which is available on Android and IOS, users can share at any place where they are compelled to share their personal mobile number including on digital platforms. 

“There is so much data attached to a phone number, which has become the singular-most identity across India. Nobody asked for our consent for linking so much of our data to a phone number. Today, a phone number equals an individual,” says Aditya. 

Aditya had recently bought a car. For the entire process, he used his Doosra number. Apart from the sales representative, Aditya blocked all other calls from insurance companies, second-hand car dealers and other unwanted callers. The phone number is a touchy topic. Be it a store, mall or restaurant, we sometimes have to grudgingly give out our number to strangers. Sometimes its for that 10% discount or when an executive at the establishment asks for it in the event of returning a product. What follows is an attack by irritating spam calls. At its worst, it can also lead to data breaches. 

Talking about the data leak that happened through Aadhaar numbers earlier in 2019, Aditya says not only was the government too eager to link Aadhaar to a mobile number and not anticipate the ramifications of it, but several companies are also guilty. “Why did they need to have so much information? They did not gauge the repercussions of having so much. All servers, be it owned by the government or companies, are at risk. Tomorrow, if a data leak happens through a Doosra number, nothing will happen,” he says. 

But through Doosra’s obfuscation model, even in an event of a data breach, it will not leak your real identity. “If the hackers call your Doosra number, their call will be blocked. It is a virtual number so they cannot trace it a device and get your location. All you will may be left with is a sadistic grin because everyone’s data will be leaked, except yours,” laughs Aditya. 

In India, we have a notion that we are lagging in the digital infrastructure, says Aditya. “We have the best of minds who are serving the rest of the world. India got too eager to get on the digital bandwagon. But if you have an excess of something, you end seeming like a surveillance state. Aadhaar on paper is an extremely useful tool. But if it starts to infringe upon the people’s fundamental rights then you are getting eager. You don’t know where to draw the line as a government. At some point of time, they lost the sight of the aim,” says Aditya.

Aditya says Doosra is still in its early stages. The company is now focusing on ‘behavioural changes’. “What we want people to know that you need a second number for a different digital identity. The sector of privacy has been witnessing several catastrophes in the last nine-10 months; so much data has leaked, and it is going to be more pervasive in the next 10-15 years,” he says. 

“The behavioural change we are looking at is that we all need a second or an alternate identity in the digital ecosystem,” he says. 

Subscription packs
Doosra offers two subscription packages. There is an Essential pack, which costs Rs 59 per month (Rs 699 billed annually), which offers unlimited voicemails, premium and VIP number options, 100 minutes of call back every month, and the ability to add 10 contacts to the ‘Trusted’ list. The other is the Pro package, which costs Rs 83/month (Rs 999 billed annually)

How does Doosra work
It blocks all calls by default. All text messages sent to this secondary number are stored within the app. However, users have the option to add a ‘trusted number’ so they can whitelist the contact, and their calls will come through. The other way to somewhat whitelist calls is to turn off the call blocker for 60 minutes. In that one hour, all calls on that secondary number will come through and not be blocked by default

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The New Indian Express