Tag Archives: digital india

We need data protection and privacy law

Protecting individual’s right to privacy is a fundamental right

Privacy is an entitlement of every free man and woman. Article 21 of the Constitution, as interpreted by the Supreme Court, is the heart of the fundamental rights. It states that, no person shall be deprived of his or her life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law. Right to privacy, i.e. safeguarding of personal information from public domain to avoid unwarranted interference, is an integral component of Article 21 of the Constitution.

In the era of internet induced information explosion, right to privacy extends to protection of personal data on the web domain. On the one hand, science and technology is revolutionalising our lives and on the other, privacy has become a luxury in this digital era. The recent revelation that Facebook has been allowed by WhatsApp to use the personal data of users for commercial purpose has once again revived the demand for a stringent privacy law in India.

Facebook has been given access to the names, phone numbers and other personal data of millions of WhatsApp users for advertising purpose. Sharing this kind of metadata may give Facebook a better view of users’ online communication activities, affiliations and habits, but it runs the risk of making private WhatsApp contacts into more public Facebook connections.

In India, over 70 million people are using WhatsApp. Facebook has more than 142 million active users in India out of which at least 133 million users are accessing the site through mobile phones. Therefore, the access would have implications for millions of users of the social networking sites.

Besides risks relating to individual privacy, lack of data protection has serious security implications also. With the advent of technology and e-commerce, the problems related to the same are also increasing day by day. India itself has faced a tremendous increase in cyber crimes and data stealing.

The cyber protection cells have witnessed various instances of data theft recently. Some recent press reports have indicated that 2014-15 saw the largest number of incursions and hacks into government websites. It’s obvious that this lack of accountability to individual data poses a significant risk to the individuals and agencies concerned. In 2015 itself, the websites of TRAI, the Indian Army, JNU, ISRO and CBI websites were hacked.

India presently does not have any express legislation governing data protection or privacy. Unlike the EU, India does not have any separate law which is designed exclusively for the data protection. As of now, the issue of data protection is generally governed by the contractual relationship between the parties and the parties are free to enter into contracts to determine their relationship defining the terms personal data, personal sensitive data, data which may not be transferred out of or to India and mode of handling of the same.

Prior to 2011 the situation of the laws related to data protection was very vague and ambiguous. The relevant laws in India dealing with data protection were the Information Technology Act, 2000 and the (Indian) Contract Act, 1872. However, both these Acts were not fully equipped to deal with data protection and privacy. The concept of “personal data” is not even defined in the IT Act.

In 2011, India felt the need for a strict and stringent data protection law. Thus, a new set of rules named the Information Technology (Reasonable Security Practices and Procedures and Sensitive Personal Data or Information) Rules, 2011 came into picture. A draft was prepared in 2011 with the objective to protect individuals against misuse of their personal data by government and private agencies, including unauthorised sharing of Aadhar data of Indian citizens. The scope of the bill was later expanded in 2014 to include all residents of India, citizen or otherwise.

There is an imperative on the part of the government to expedite formulation of a legislation that will guarantee protection to individuals against breach of their privacy through unlawful means.

India, being the host and the biggest platform of data outsourcing needs an effective and well formulated mechanism for dealing with these crimes. In the absence of a specific legislation, the Indian software and outsourcing industry has been taking initiatives on its own that would provide comfort to the foreign clients and vendors.

The National Association of Service & Software Companies (NASSCOM) has been the driving force behind many private sector efforts to improve data security. For sustaining and encouraging the BPO boom, India needs to have a legal framework that meets with the expectations, both legal and of a public nature, as prevail in the jurisdictions from which data is being shipped to India.

In practical terms the biggest hurdle for India is to have its framework of domestic data protection laws officially adjudged and publicly perceived as “adequate”. A dedicated data protection law would give further impetus to not only the outsourcing industry but to the foreign direct investment policy at large.

Undoubtedly, the concept of data privacy and protection is at a nascent stage in India. But, the lack of a comprehensive legislation pertaining to privacy and data protection has been a matter of concern. A new legislation dealing specifically with the protection of data and information present on the web is the dire need of the day. At the same time, the new legislation should maintain a balance between individual privacy and tightening its grip on the increasing rate of cyber crimes.

The minister of state for Personnel, Jitendra Singh, had informed Rajya Sabha in August, 2015 that the Centre was in the process of drafting a legislation that will guarantee protection to individuals against breach of their privacy through unlawful means. It has been more than a year since Digital India was launched.

The need for a robust and comprehensive privacy legislation to protect the rights of citizens is imminent at this stage. India is a signatory to the TRIPS and is, therefore, bound to have its domestic laws conform to the requirements of its Article 39, which deals with protection of undisclosed information.

With the passage of time, India has seen the emergence of various legal challenges pertaining to preservation and protection of sensitive personal data and information. Keeping an eye on its recent data misuse scams and also to protect individual’s right to privacy which is treated as part of fundamental right to life, the government should come up with a comprehensive data protection policy.

No legislation is effective without making sure it can be implemented. Therefore, a specialised agency should be created under the act with enforcement powers to regulate, monitor, set standards and investigate complaints.

Srouce – http://www.mydigitalfc.com/op-ed/we-need-data-protection-privacy-law-896

DIGITAL INDIA-CHALLENGES & CONTRAINTS

An ambitious plan for taking India forward on the digital map of the world is definitely a great idea but we need infrastructure, implementation and monitoring strategy and safeguards against intrusion into privacy.

The limbo between the goal and the state of resources needs immediate redress. After the prioritising and setting of the goals, these detailed steps are very much essential and need to be articulated before taking the first step on the digital India initiative.  Absence of a road map will only damage the prospect of the ambitious plan.

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We need to assess where do we exactly stand and what steps are required to make the initiative a grand success. Despite being an IT superpower, India is ranked at 125 in the world, below Bhutan & Sri Lanka, in terms of broadband penetration and 110 on the availability of latest technologies.

The rank is 75 in terms of household penetration in developing countries. Voice connectivity is only about 60% and data penetration far lower about 20%. India has been categorised in the Least Connected Countries in the Group of 42 countries that fall in the low IDP group.

As per the World Economic Forum report, India has slipped to 89th rank among 143 countries in successfully levering information & communication technology for social and economic impact. Such a critical situation should compel us to pause and explore specific solution instead of ignoring them and moving forward without any proper institutional support mechanism.

How Digital India can save itself from doom

Every campaign is required to have a vision, an assessment of the resources – financial, human, technological or otherwise – and a viable roadmap in order to be successful. Otherwise, just like planets cannot be reached by building staircases, the campaign will fizzle out without achieving any significant result. Only the halla bollahs of the campaign will remain.

The Digital India initiative is nothing new. India has been digital for quite a long period of time and that includes access to government services by technological means. What was Bhagidari in Delhi? So, significant steps had been taken everywhere across the country to provide the citizens access to technology and to make their lives better. But the magnitude and scale of the campaign of the Modi government make it an ambitious project.

The objective of digitally empowering the citizens is good but the Digital India campaign launched by the prime minister has many loopholes that need to be plugged by the respective stakeholders to achieve the desired goals. The excitement of the industry is well understood as returns on investment on communications and information technology (IT) tend to accrue sooner and demands lesser outlay in comparison to heavy capital-intensive infrastructure. But the industry alone cannot make this grand initiative a success.

The role and preparedness of the government, as facilitator and regulator, is equally important. Constraints on this front have the potential to seriously damage the enterprise.

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We need to assess where do we exactly stand and what steps are required to make the initiative a grand success. Despite being an IT superpower, India is ranked 125th in the world, below Bhutan and Sri Lanka, in terms of broadband penetration and 110th on the availability of latest technologies. The rank is 75 in terms of household penetration in developing countries. Voice connectivity is only about 60 per cent and data penetration far lower about 20 per cent.

India has been categorised among the Least Connected Countries in a group of 42 countries that fall in the low IDP group. According to the World Economic Forum report, India has slipped to the 89th rank among 143 countries in successfully leveraging information and communication technology for social and economic impact. Such a critical situation should compel us to pause and explore specific solutions instead of ignoring them and moving forward without any proper institutional support mechanism.

The success of the project depends on taking e-governance to all citizens and to bring the government closer to people. Therefore, for the overall vision of Digital India, it is highly imperative to create the digital infrastructure for all citizens so that they can have easy, cheaper and user-friendly access to technology.

We need end-to-end connectivity, without any rural-urban bias. Mobile banking, even though has the potential of augmentation, cannot alone bring about a digital revolution. We need to promote the use of fixed line broadband also and with the present avatars of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL), Mahanagar Telephone Nigam (MTNL) and National Informatics Centre (NIC), the task is not only gigantic but almost impossible to achieve.

The multi-layered structure involved in decision making in the sector needs to be overhauled. The financial challenges of the telecom companies and availability of good quality spectrum also need to be taken into consideration. Otherwise, the programme could get derailed. The NIC needs immediate restructuring. At present, they are highly ill-equipped to meet the challenges.

Net neutrality is another issue that demands immediate solution. To say that we cannot wait for the physical infrastructure to be set up to start the process gives an impression that we intend to move in a half-baked manner which will be nothing but disastrous. If building a robust information network is the objective, setting up of adequate infrastructure is a must.

Otherwise, how will we translate a vision of 650 million internet connections against the present 200 million and an internet speed of up to 2 Mbps against the present 512 Kbps into action by 2020? Given the level of digital connectivity India has and the purchasing power of citizens, we need an India-specific net neutrality solution and not a copy-paste one from another country with different socio-economic and technological background.

The free flow of information in the web domain is a prerequisite for Digital India to be a success. Here, the role of the government as a positive regulator is very important. In this context, we need to understand that the Government of India had blocked 2341 URLs in 2014 which was 73 per cent more than that in 2013.

We need filtering but that should be transparent and not discriminatory. There should be a level playing field. Consequent to the scrapping of Section 66 of the IT Act, the government should seriously consider bringing about legislative measures to streamline the flow of information on the web medium.

An ambitious plan for making India’s place firmer on the digital map of the world is definitely a great idea but we need infrastructure, implementation and monitoring strategy and safeguards against intrusion into privacy. The limbo between the goal and the state of resources needs immediate redress. After the prioritising and setting of goals, these detailed steps are very essential and need to be articulated before taking the first step on the Digital India initiative. Absence of a roadmap will only damage the prospect of the ambitious plan.

Source-“http://www.dailyo.in/politics/digital-india-narendra-modi-ict-bhagidari-information-technology-bsnl-mtnl-internet-net-neutrality/story/1/4824.html