Draft bill un­likely to be cleared be­fore LS polls

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - - HTNATION - Nakul Srid­har

NEWDELHI: The draft Data Pro­tec­tion Bill sub­mit­ted by the jus­tice BN Srikr­ishna com­mit­tee will be tabled in Par­lia­ment, but will not be passed be­fore the 2019 gen­eral elec­tions, a se­nior of­fi­cial fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter said.

The elec­tron­ics and in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy min­istry em­pan­elled a group of nine ex­perts in July 2017 to draft In­dia’s first ever per­sonal data pri­vacy law. The panel, led by re­tired Supreme Court judge BN Srikr­ishna, sub­mit­ted its rec­om­men­da­tions along with a larger re­port to the IT min­istry in July. The Bill, when en­acted, would dic­tate how the gov­ern­ment and busi­nesses can col­lect, process and use per­sonal data of in­di­vid­u­als.

The pro­posed bill makes in­di­vid­ual con­sent the cen­tre­piece of data shar­ing, awards rights to users, im­poses obli­ga­tions on “data fidu­cia­ries”— all those en­ti­ties, in­clud­ing the State, which de­ter­mine pur­pose and means of data pro­cess­ing.

Last week, the min­istry ex­tended the date for re­ceiv­ing pub­lic opin­ion on the draft Bill. The se­nior of­fi­cial cited above said on con­di­tion of anonymity that in­dus­try as­so­ci­a­tions re­quested more time to un­der­stand the im­pli­ca­tions of the draft be­fore sub­mit­ting feed­back to the min­istry. The pub­lic can send opin­ions and sug­ges­tions to the min­istry on its web­site un­til Septem­ber 30, up from the ear­lier dead­line of Septem­ber 10.

Other se­nior of­fi­cials in the min­istry with di­rect knowl­edge of the mat­ter said that de­spite the nearly three-week ex­ten­sion, they would try and make the draft Bill ready for tabling in the win­ter ses­sion of Par­lia­ment. When the Bill was sub­mit­ted to IT min­is­ter Ravi Shankar Prasad in late July, he said the min­istry would hold con­sul­ta­tion with the gen­eral pub­lic and in­dus­try as­so­ci­a­tions. Af­ter the con­sul­ta­tions, he said, it would be in­tro­duced in Par­lia­ment and sent to a par­lia­men­tary stand­ing com­mit­tee for scru­tiny.

Some ex­perts be­lieve a data pro­tec­tion law is not ex­actly the need of the hour. “The cam­paign over What­sapp or other so­cial me­dia will con­tinue un­hin­dered de­spite a per­sonal data pro­tec­tion law sim­ply be­cause most of th­ese are or­ga­nized through pri­vate chat groups,” Ananth Pad­manbhan, fel­low at the Cen­tre for Pol­icy Re­search, said. “Pro­fil­ing for pur­poses of elec­tions has been go­ing on for years, and it is un­likely a new law would stop po­lit­i­cal par­ties from car­ry­ing on with the same.”

Oth­ers say there is need to have the law in place be­fore the gen­eral elec­tions next year. “It’s cru­cial to have both im­proved checks on sur­veil­lance and data pro­tec­tion mea­sures on gov­ern­ment and the pri­vate sec­tor be­fore the elec­tions. And we have seen an ex­plo­sion of at­tempts to use data to in­flu­ence, tar­get peo­ple for elec­tions,” said Ra­man Chima, a lawyer and pol­icy di­rec­tor at Ac­cess Now, a dig­i­tal rights ad­vo­cacy group, and vol­un­teer with saveour­pri­vacy.in. “Cam­bridge An­a­lyt­ica re­vealed the scale of prob­lems.”

Cam­bridge An­a­lyt­ica, a Bri­tish po­lit­i­cal con­sult­ing firm, de­liv­ered data-in­ten­sive mar­ket­ing and po­lit­i­cal cam­paign­ing strate­gies for elec­tronic me­dia. The firm was ac­cused by whistle­blower Christo­pher Wylie in March this year of col­lect­ing unau­tho­rized per­sonal data of more than 87 mil­lion Face­book users. Face­book later said at least half a mil­lion In­di­ans’ pro­files could have been com­pro­mised in the data grab.

The Cen­tral Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion (CBI) be­gan a pre­lim­i­nary en­quiry against Cam­bridge An­a­lyt­ica in Au­gust for its role in il­le­gally ob­tain­ing In­di­ans’ data. “It is sus­pected that Cam­bridge An­a­lyt­ica may have been in­volved in il­le­gally ob­tain­ing data of In­di­ans which could be mis­used,” Prasad said in par­lia­ment in July.

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