Why is the govt leaving out independent voices from data protection framework panel | editorials | Hindustan Times
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Why is the govt leaving out independent voices from data protection framework panel

It is a good move to institute a committee to an expert committee to deliberate on a data protection framework for India. However, independent experts must be included

editorials Updated: Aug 02, 2017 20:34 IST
As the distinction between ‘users’ of ICT-enabled applications and ‘citizens’ of the country become more and more conflated, it is critically important for the government to put in place a framework for the manner in which users’ data can be protected.
As the distinction between ‘users’ of ICT-enabled applications and ‘citizens’ of the country become more and more conflated, it is critically important for the government to put in place a framework for the manner in which users’ data can be protected. (AFP)

In itself, it is a commendable move by the ministry of electronics and information technology (MeitY) to have set up an expert committee to deliberate on a data protection framework for India. Given that the IT Act was written almost two decades ago in 2000, and was last amended almost 10 years ago in 2008, it is high time that the laws in this fast changing sector were re-examined. As the presence of technology companies such as Facebook and Whatsapp become ubiquitous; and the government continues to push for increased collection of citizens’ data through Aadhaar and DNA profiling, questions of data protection and data privacy have become vitally important.

As the distinction between ‘users’ of ICT-enabled applications and ‘citizens’ of the country become more and more conflated, it is critically important for the government to put in place a framework for the manner in which users’ data can be protected. Seen in light of the current case being heard in Supreme Court regarding the collection and use of Aadhaar data, this committee becomes even more relevant and important. However, the composition of the committee leaves much to be desired in terms of the number of points of view on the issue that will be represented in it.

It is vital that the composition of the panel that will make recommendations to the government include independent cyber security experts along with jurists and legal experts. Given that most of the members of the panel have spoken against a right to privacy in the past, the composition of the committee is heavily skewed in the direction of the government’s slated policy that data privacy cannot be a fundamental right.

The implications of strong data protection legislation will have repercussions on all data collected, stored, and used in various forms – be it in the private sector with companies that collect and analyse big data or the government with linking bank accounts and PAN numbers with Aadhaar, and the collection and use of DNA samples.