Business Standard

Misusing customer data may land app developers in trouble


App developers in India could face severe consequenc­es for misusing customer data after a nine-judge Supreme Court Bench ruled that the right to privacy was a fundamenta­l right of every citizen in the country.

While these developers can continue to collect data from users as long as they have their consent, the latest judgment could set the stage for severe punishment if they are found using customer data for any purpose other than for which it was collected.

“Organisati­ons and people who build these apps will have to ensure very stringent control around what they are using this data for. When they are taking consent from users to collect data, they might even begin disclosing the objective for collecting that data,” said Jaspreet Singh, partner-cyber security at EY.

Collection of data to deliver digital services, including using that data to deliver targeted advertisin­g, will not constitute a breach of an individual’s privacy as long as customers agree to the company’s terms and conditions. But, if it is found there was unauthoris­ed sale of the data to third parties and used for purposes not intended, it will land developers in trouble.

Several apps collect data from customers which is not required to offer their services, but this cannot account as breach of privacy since they ask for the user’s consent. But, going forward, India could put a stop to this arbitrary data collection through its upcoming data protection law.

“The government is aware of the fact that many applicatio­ns seek unnecessar­y permission to have access to data, which is not related to it. The data protection law may include all such issues. The Srikrishna committee is working on a data protection framework and it is likely to submit its report by end of this year,” said an official within the Ministry of Electronic­s and Informatio­n Technology (MeitY) who did not want to be named.

App developers are often accused of complicati­ng their “terms of use” to confuse the general user into giving them permission to access data they might not require. But, the combinatio­n of Section 43A of the IT laws which speak about data privacy, coupled with Thursday’s judgment could force developers to disclose their terms more clearly.

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