A government panel working on India’s first privacy law has proposed a jail term of up to five years and a fine of up to Rs. 2 crore for snooping.
In its draft report on the proposed privacy act, the panel said unauthorised sharing of personal information or interception of communication and its disclosure should be made a cognisable offence. The government’s investigating agencies can intercept communication for national security, public interest and public order only through an executive order.
The panel said any information identifying people directly or indirectly was personal and its protection was the government’s job, unless a disclosure was required in “public interest”. People should also be informed why their personal information was being collected.
The proposed law prescribes a jail term of three years and fine of up to Rs. 1 crore for unauthorised sharing or disclosure of one’s personal information given to service providers, such as insurance or telecom companies and government agencies.
Theft of personal data would invite a fine of up to R1 crore, the panel suggested, while providing for compensation to people whose privacy had been infringed.
The panel suggested a regulatory body — privacy commissioner having four regional offices — for registering complaints and enforcing the proposed law.
It also called for self-regulation by government agencies and service providers through self-regulating organisations under the supervision of the private commissioner.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had sought a high-level committee to frame an overarching privacy law after the civil society raised concerns over personal data being collected by government agencies, such as the Unique Identification Authority of India and National Intelligence Grid.
Unlike western countries, India doesn't have a law to protect one's privacy, resulting in unauthorised interception of communication, its dissemination on social media sites and misuse.