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Data protection bill will hold tech companies such as Facebook, Google accountable for users’ information

A draft of the data protection bill, that was submitted to the government on Friday, says there will be consequences for companies that collect users’ data, and also calls for storing this information in India.

india Updated: Jul 28, 2018 09:04 IST
Vidhi Choudhary
Vidhi Choudhary
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Data Protection Bill,Draft of Data Protection Bill,BN Srikrishna
The focus on data protection comes after the scandal in March over access gained by political marketing firm Cambridge Analytica to user’s data collected through Facebook.

Technology companies like Facebook and Google with operations in India will be held accountable for the data they collect here, suggested the draft data protection bill that was submitted to the government on Friday.

Google generates $1 billion in ad revenues in India and Facebook is accessed by 217 million people every month.

“The Act shall apply to the processing of personal data by data fiduciaries or data processors not present within the territory of India, only if such processing is — (a) in connection with any business carried on in India, or any systematic activity of offering goods or services to data principals within the territory of India; or (b) in connection with any activity which involves profiling of data principals within the territory of India,” stated the draft Personal Data Protection Bill, 2018.

“In a nutshell, these companies will be accountable for the data they collect in India.There will be consequences for this, and one hopes they engage to fix and strengthen this bill and recognise that a strong privacy law is a requirement for everyone,” said lawyer and founder of the Internet Freedom Foundation, Raman Jit Singh Chima. Both Google and Facebook declined to comment on this story.

These firms have been under the scanner after a scandal in March over access gained by political marketing firm Cambridge Analytica to user data.

“One hopes that tech companies will welcome the advancement of a data protection law in India. They will be made accountable to law for the data they collect, a situation they face in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, even in the US,” Chimaadded.

According to the draft bill, every data fiduciary shall ensure the storage, on a server or data centre located in India, of at least one serving copy of personal data to which this draft bill applies.

“It’s unclear how that will work. In its present form, it will probably cause immense difficulties to not just big technology companies like Google and Facebook but even smaller tech players,” said Chima.

Lawyer Apar Gupta agreed. “Internet companies will have a difficult time dealing with the data localisation requirements. It could have the impact of splintering the internet and could create a walled garden in India. It would be against the interest of the users because they might not get access to best and latest online web services,” he added.

Gupta said users, who currently have no control over their data, will now have some measure of control, but that more needed to be done given how powerful an asset data has become.

First Published: Jul 28, 2018 09:01 IST