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As India debates over the Data Protection Bill, a non-profit group, Wikimedia Foundation, recently raised concerns to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology regarding specific proposed rules in the bill, which bring the legal right to privacy under threat in India.
Wikimedia, which also runs Wikipedia, gives access to free information and therefore pointed at the possible repercussions of the rules which will compel it to set up a local entity, filter its content, among other things. Wikimedia, along with other organisations, had alerted the government about their concerns when the law was being drafted.
They believe that the bill would affect more than half a billion people who access information from their website.
The intermediary liability rules in the bill make it compulsory for all companies to establish a local data entity in India, which is seen as an 'unrealistic burden' for many non-profit organisations, along with a heavy financial burden.
The Contentious Bill
The Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 is currently being analysed by a Joint Parliamentary Committee of Parliament as Clause 91 of the Bill permits the government to acquire data from any corporation.
The bill has received a lot of flak for allowing law enforcement agencies to use personal data of users without their consent for "reasonable purposes."
Justice BN Srikrishna, who led the committee that drafted the bill, called it "dangerous," adding that it can turn India into an Orwellian state.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella also said that data privacy must be seen as a human right that needs to be protected with full transparency.
The bill mentions that the state may acquire private property or data for public purposes, on the payment of compensation to the owners of the property that is being received.
The provision states that "the Central Government may, in consultation with the Authority, direct any data fiduciary or data processor to provide" any anonymised data to "enable better targeting of delivery of services or formulation of evidence-based policies by the policies by the Central Government."
What Is The Government's Objective?
Over the past years, multiple instances of data privacy breaches have been reported from the world's largest companies and billions of their users.
At the same time, Europe, in 2016, came up with the General Data Protection Regulation, which ensured transparency, security, and privacy. Last month, California also introduced the right to request deletion of collected data.
The Indian government, on the contrary, aims to acquire private data sets to formulate public policy and carry out its governance functions.
The private sector has access to abundant data sets that would be extremely useful for the government, even if the personal details of individuals are anonymised.
In the case of Ola and Uber, the large datasets available with them would help city planners and the traffic police to understand the flow of traffic in various Indian cities.
Healthcare diagnostic chains and hospitals and their database would assist in developing the next generation of artificial intelligence for the healthcare industry.
Is This Happening For The First Time?
Surprisingly, this bill is not the first that allows the government to acquire data for governance.
The Collection of Statistics Act, 2008, also gave immense power to the government to acquire information across the country. However, it came with a limitation that permitted the government to use the acquired data only for statistical purposes.
The Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) has urged the new parliamentary committee to review the current Personal Data Protection Bill (PDP) to undertake a public consultation before proceeding ahead with the bill. IFF said that the consultation would ensure that the public has a chance to give their comments on the PDP bill.
With the support of Internet Freedom Foundation, The Logical Indian is running a campaign to make people aware of the Data Protection Bill and then fix it. Through #SaveOurPrivacy initiative we are taking our voice to a Joint Committee of Parliament that is, at present, considering and taking inputs. By clicking on the pledge you sign on to the campaign and bring a change.