TRAI Con­sul­ta­tion Raises Key Is­sues

For a law- and tech-en­abled a data reg­u­la­tor

The Economic Times - - The Edit Page -

The tele­com reg­u­la­tor’s con­sul­ta­tion on data pro­tec­tion and pri­vacy comes while the Supreme Court is weigh­ing in on the right to pri­vacy. How­ever, since no right is ab­so­lute and all rights are qual­i­fied for spe­cific pur­poses, even if the reg­u­la­tor’s de­ter­mi­na­tion on data pro­tec­tion is fi­nalised well after the Supreme Court’s judg­ment, they would still need ac­tion in the form of a sep­a­rate law and cre­ation of a data reg­u­la­tor. Those who col­lect data must se­cure the data and have an obli­ga­tion to pre­vent any harm aris­ing from the col­lected data. There must be an in­de­pen­dent agency that mon­i­tors the use of data and holds data col­lec­tors and data users to ac­count, to en­sure be­nign use of data.

The law In­dia frames on data pro­tec­tion must align with sim­i­lar laws in ju­ris­dic­tions such as the EU, in or­der to al­low data to cross bor­ders and feed new busi­nesses and ser­vices. And In­dia must en­ter into data pro­tec­tion agree­ments with the gov­ern­ments of other ju­ris­dic­tions that re­ceive data from In­dia and send data across to In­dia for pro­cess­ing in this coun­try. Should in­di­vid­u­als have the ab­so­lute right to con­trol all their data? Such ab­so­lute con­trol would rule out, for ex­am­ple, credit scores, epi­demi­o­log­i­cal fore­casts and re­sul­tant pre­ven­tive ac­tion, and anal­y­sis of meta­data by se­cu­rity agen­cies. Ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence de­pends on ad­vanced al­go­rithms teach­ing them­selves us­ing tonnes of data. The data must be avail­able to be read. These are sig­nif­i­cant ex­ter­nal­i­ties to per­sonal data that mil­i­tate against giv­ing in­di­vid­u­als ab­so­lute con­trol over their data. Yet, this should not re­sult in un­con­trolled use of a per­son’s data in a man­ner that could do him or her harm. En­sur­ing this must be the job of an in­de­pen­dent, legally em­pow­ered and tech­no­log­i­cally savvy reg­u­la­tor which is an­swer­able to Par­lia­ment rather than to the ex­ec­u­tive.

Tech­nol­ogy evolves in ways that blur the dis­tinc­tion be­tween per­sonal data and meta­data. En­cryp­tion up­ends a lot of data mon­i­tor­ing. A state that does not have the ca­pac­ity to pierce data veils can­not pro­tect data ei­ther. Tech prow­ess must ac­com­pany pro­tec­tive reg­u­la­tion.

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