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Draft Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019

  • 26 Oct 2020
  • 6 min read

Why in News

Recently, Facebook India’s policy head has appeared before the 30-member Joint Committee of Parliament which is examining the draft Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019.

  • However, Amazon has declined to appear on the ground of risky travel amidst the pandemic.

Key Points

  • Amazon, Twitter, Facebook, Google and Paytm are among the companies from whom the committee has sought views on data security and protection amid concerns that the privacy of users is being “compromised” for commercial interest.
    • Facebook was interrogated on how it targets audiences, their data storage model and transfer of data, etc.
    • Amazon’s refusal amounts to a breach of parliamentary privilege and the panel is unanimous about taking coercive action if no one from the company appears on the next date.
  • Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019:
    • It is commonly referred to as the “Privacy Bill” and intends to protect individual rights by regulating the collection, movement, and processing of data that is personal, or which can identify the individual.
      • The Bill derives its inspiration from a previous draft version prepared by a committee headed by retired Justice B N Srikrishna.
    • In December 2019, Parliament approved sending it to the joint committee.
    • The Bill gives the government powers to authorise the transfer of certain types of personal data overseas and has given exceptions allowing government agencies to collect personal data of citizens.
    • The Bill divides the data into three categories and mandates their storage depending upon the type.
      • Personal Data: Data from which an individual can be identified like name, address, etc.
      • Sensitive Personal Data: Some types of personal data like financial, health-related, sexual orientation, biometric, genetic, transgender status, caste, religious belief, and more.
        • It needs to be stored only in India and can be processed abroad only under certain conditions including approval of the Data Protection Agency (DPA).
      • Critical Personal Data: Anything that the government at any time can deem critical, such as military or national security data.
        • It must be stored and processed in India only.
    • It removes the requirement of data mirroring (in case of personal data). Only individual consent for data transfer abroad is required.
      • Data mirroring is the act of copying data from one location to a storage device in real-time.
      • In the earlier version, the Bill enabled the transfer of personal data outside India, with a subcategory of SPD having to be mirrored in the country (i.e. a copy will have to be kept in the country).
    • It mandates data fiduciaries to provide the government with any non-personal data when demanded.
      • Non-personal data refers to anonymised data, such as traffic patterns or demographic data.
      • The previous draft did not apply to this type of data, which many companies use to fund their business model.
      • Data Fiduciary: It may be a service provider who collects, stores and uses data in the course of providing such goods and services.
    • The Bill requires companies and social media intermediaries, which are “significant data fiduciaries”, to enable users in India to voluntarily verify their accounts.
      • It would be visible in a “demonstrable and visible mark of verification, which shall be visible to all users of the service”.
      • This intends to decrease the anonymity of users and prevent trolling.
  • Advantages:
    • Data localisation can help law-enforcement agencies access data for investigations and enforcement and also increase the ability of the government to tax internet giants.
    • Instances of cyber-attacks (for example, Spyware Pegasus) and surveillance can be checked.
    • Social media, which is sometimes used to spread fake news, can be monitored and checked, preventing emerging national threats in time.
    • A strong data protection legislation will also help to enforce data sovereignty.
  • Disadvantages:
    • Many contend that the physical location of the data is not relevant in the cyber world as the encryption keys may still be out of reach of national agencies.
    • National security or reasonable purposes are open-ended and subjective terms, which may lead to intrusion of the state into the private lives of citizens.
    • Technology giants like Facebook and Google are against it and have criticised the protectionist policy of data localisation as they are afraid it would have a domino effect in other countries as well.
    • Also, it may backfire on India’s own young startups that are attempting global growth, or on larger firms that process foreign data in India.

Source: TH

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