Govt may frame rules for sharing of non-personal data under digital India law
The rules could include pricing for sharing anonymised data sets and provisions for free government access to boost efficiency of the government’s welfare schemes
The government may frame rules for the sharing of non-personal data under the overarching digital India law that has been in the works for long, officials familiar with the matter said.
The rules could include pricing for sharing anonymised data sets and provisions for free government access to boost efficiency of the government’s welfare schemes, an official said on the condition of anonymity. “The idea is to have a free flow of anonymised data sets,” he said.
Non-personal data includes any information that does not reveal an individual’s identity. The electronics and IT ministry may add caveats in the sharing of such data. “There will be aspects to sharing of such data that will be limited so that it can only be used for specific purposes for which it has been shared,” the official added.
Several approaches to governing non-personal data have so far been weighed by the government. The addition of non-personal data in the data protection law was recommended by the joint parliamentary committee set up to examine the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019, which was established in the same year to study the existing provisions and recommend changes.
In December 2021, the committee tabled its report. Several members of Parliament had argued against the final draft, stating that it provided “unbridled” exemptions for the government, which was a cause for concern. Later, the government dropped its inclusion from the draft legislation.
At the same time, the central government was also considering a separate legislation to govern non-personal data. Another committee headed by former Infosys CEO Kris Gopalakrishnan was set up in 2020 to work on the regulatory structure for non-personal data. It has conducted several rounds of stakeholder consultations and has submitted its report to the IT ministry.
India has no policy to govern anonymised, or non-personal data. The national data governance framework and policy, at present a draft, will lay down protocols and standards for how government institutions process, store and share data within the larger government ecosystem. The government has said it will share this data with start-ups to help “boost development”.
“It will aim to (ensure) greater citizen awareness, participation, and engagement with open data, increase the availability of data sets of national importance, and identify data sets suitable for sharing and improve overall compliance to secure data sharing and privacy policies and standards,” the draft states.
Kazim Rizvi, founder of tech policy think tank The Dialogue said that the government’s contemplation of bringing rules for sharing non-personal data may help unlock its value.
“As we move forward, it will be important to address a few aspects to make its implementation effective. First, a data-sharing mechanism must be voluntary. Second, umbrella pricing of the non-personal data will be sub-optimal, therefore the pricing of a particular dataset must be proportionate depending on the context, relevance, quality, granularity, and linkage to the use case. The definition of non-personal data and anonymised data must be narrow to avoid infringement of Intellectual Property Rights. Finally, it is important to have clarity in terms of checks and balances such that non-personal data is utilised only for specific purposes for which it has been shared,” he added.